Council will discuss related safety issues at next meeting
EXETER – The Town of Exeter has received an official complaint about a unique structure that has raised some concerns over public safety issues.
The complaint revolved around the “Fish Barn,” named so for its fish-like shape and a pair of eyes built into the roof, which some neighbors and residents have criticized for the attention it was drawing from passing motorists.
The structure was in the process of being built by Karl Aughinbaugh on his farm, located on Ten Rod Road. The barn was originally intended to serve as a farmstand, with a garden planted around it; however, after a local neighborhood association and some residents took issue with the attention the structure was drawing, Aughinbaugh decided to halt construction and put it up for sale.
Two large wooden carvings had also been placed in front of the Fish Barn, one of a cow and the other of a dog, both of which stand near the side of the road.
In September, a town council work session was held in Exeter that focused solely on the Fish Barn and concerns that were raised regarding motorists stopping on Ten Rod Road–which has a speed limit of 45 mph–to take a picture of the structure.
During the work session, council member Manny Andrews, who serves as the council’s public safety liaison, said that there had already been accidents caused by vehicles suddenly pulling out of a makeshift spot alongside the road after having taken pictures of the Fish Barn.
“On a few occasions, I’ve gone by and cars have pulled out in front of me and I have to jack on my brakes, almost hitting them,” Andrews added. “I’m surprised there hasn’t been a very serious accident there. I know there’s been some accidents.”
At the end of the work session, the council requested that the two wooden carvings be moved further back from the street in order to attract less attention from motorists, which Aughinbaugh complied with and removed from the side of the road.
However, earlier this month, members of the town council discussed an official complaint they had received from Megan Sadler, who lives across the street from the Fish Barn. The complaint stated that Sadler and her husband, Richard Sadler, had seen multiple safety and traffic concerns, including car crashes and cars suddenly stopping in the road.
She added that, while the September work session had resulted in the carvings being removed from the front of the barn, there was still “no resolution to safety concerns on parking, traffic nor the attention it brings.”
Sadler also included pictures of motor vehicle accidents and cars stopping in the road, all allegedly stemming from the distraction caused by the Fish Barn.
“We have attached pictures of the traffic that started in April and continues to present day,” Sadler wrote in her complaint. “In the enclosed pictures you will see a car crash, traffic that has stopped in order to take a picture of said barn. You will also see vehicles pulling out onto a 45-mile-an-hour road as well as parking on [the road]... in order to take a picture.”
The complaint, Sadler wrote, was a “formal submission” requesting that the town find a solution to “this serious safety issue.”
“As the owners of the property across the street from the new barn we are able to witness the safety and traffic concerns that have come up repeatedly since the building of the barn,” Sadler wrote. “It is our sincere hope that we can bring attention and a solution to this serious safety issue before someone gets injured or killed trying to take a picture of the barn.”
Because Ten Rod Road is a state road, however, the council explained that the complaint would have to be forwarded to Rhode Island State Police and Department of Transportation (DOT) before any action could be taken.
Last week, Exeter Town Council President Cal Ellis said that after the complaint was sent to the state police and DOT, he hoped the two departments would approve “No Parking” signs to be erected along the side of the road, particularly near the Fish Barn.
“I would hope that there could be some kind of signage,” Ellis said. “That would honestly be the only thing I could think of. I know ‘No Parking’ signs are not always effective, but it might be a step in the right direction.”
“I can’t think immediately of anything else the state police or DOT might do, but any mitigating initiatives on their part would be appreciated,” he continued.
The Exeter Town Council will discuss any updates regarding the Fish Barn, and the related safety issues, at its next meeting on Nov. 4.