As the attorney representing David and Kayla Preston, I must take exception to Robert Leach’s call for a “cease and desist” order with regard to the destruction of mill ruins on my clients’ property as reported in the Oct. 28, 2021, issue of The Valley Breeze & Observer. While there is no denying the historic significance of the Fountain Spring Mill Village as noted by Mr. Leach, all that remains of the mill are rubble stone building walls in the middle of the Prestons’ property, which is located off a private drive with no public visibility or access. This past July, Mr. Leach, in his capacity as chairman of the Smithfield Historic Preservation Commission, arrived at my clients’ property unannounced and questioned whether my clients could move the location of their proposed garage away from the mill ruins. At no point during that meeting nor subsequent to that meeting did the Prestons commit to preserving the mill ruins. Furthermore, at no point did Mr. Leach offer any assistance, whether the same be grant funding or the technical expertise necessary to stabilize and maintain the mill ruins. Mr. Leach did make a non-binding recommendation that the mill ruins not be disturbed. Subsequently, the Prestons demolished the mill ruins pursuant to a validly issued demolition permit.
On Oct. 29, 2021, the Prestons woke up to find themselves on the front page of The Valley Breeze & Observer being the subject of Mr. Leach’s attempt to publicly shame them by calling for a “cease and desist” order with respect to the demolition of the mill ruins. As chairman of the Historic Commission, Mr. Leach should well know that his role is merely advisory and that the town has no legal basis to seek a “cease and desist” order for a demolition permit validly issued by the town.
I recently read a quote to the effect that more rights are lost in town halls than we have ever lost in a war. Perhaps past Town Councils were cognizant of government overreach when they made the Smithfield Historic Preservation Commission an advisory board without the power to dictate what one can do on private property. The Prestons followed the letter of the law with respect to the demolition of the mill ruins. Hopefully they can now move forward and fully enjoy the use of their property. Furthermore, hopefully Mr. Leach will offer the Prestons an apology for attempting to publicly embarrass them for exercising their legal rights. Respectfully submitted,
Timothy F. Kane, Esquire