Update: August 7, 2018
County Commissioners continue to flout the law — allow mining operation to start on the Wood Lot without a performance bond; try to hide behind the hand-picked “Wood Lot Committee”
Town denies request by Coalition to Protect Natural Plymouth to enforce the Special Permit conditions for mining the Wood Lot
Our July 25, 2018 blog asks why the Town of Plymouth and Plymouth County Commissioners are standing by while the Wood Lot is irreversibly destroyed by a mining operation that will extract at least 201,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel from one of the most pristine parts of the site — in violation of the Special Permit and the County’s mining contract with Kingstown Trucking.
Town continues to refuse to enforce the Special Permit
In 2015, when Plymouth’s Zoning Board of Appeals granted Kingstown a Special Permit to mine the site, it imposed 22 conditions – including (1) a performance bond, and (2) proof of a legitimate, legal “end use” for the site following the mining operation. Now, three years later the Town won’t enforce the Conditions.
On July 17, the Coalition to Protect Natural Plymouth, in a letter signed by over 64 residents, asked the Town to enforce the Special Permit and in particular the two conditions. The letter is here July17.2018.CoalitiontoProtectNaturalPlymouthLetter
On August 1, 2018, the Town denied the request. August1.2018TownDenialLetter
By granting a Special Permit with conditions then failing to enforcement them, the Town duped the public into believing there would be strict controls on the mining operation that would protect the natural features of the site, as required by the detailed provisions of Section 205-18 of the Town’s Zoning Bylaw – but as is the case with most of the sand and gravel mining permits in Town, no one follows through. When local residents want to ask the Zoning Board of Appeals to enforce the Bylaw, are forced to pay an exorbitant $1000.00 “filing fee” just to appear before their own Zoning Board of Appeals. (More on this later.)
County fails to protect the public’s interest
Now that the Town has refused to require a performance bond, the County is hopping on the shell game bandwagon. On August 6, 2018, in an email the County admitted hasn’t gotten the performance bond required by the County’s own contract with the mining operator. The bond is supposed to protect the public’s interest in the Wood Lot and ensure proper site restoration after the mining is done. The County implies no bond is required yet because no work has started on the Wood Lot. That is completely false, as photos from July 25, 2018 show.
The County Commissioners have a duty to prevent destruction of the Wood Lot and an obligation to oversee proper execution of the mining contract. Instead of verifying the facts and doing its job, the County implies in its August 6, 2018 email that it will rely on the Town’s performance bond requirement – but as we have reported, there is no Town performance bond. (The Town illegally accepted $10,000 in cash instead).
County Wood Lot Committee a farce
Still facing controversy over its decisions regarding the Wood Lot – and most recently over it’s decision to spend $660,000 of taxpayer money to buy two lots for access, Commissioner Pallotta hand-picked a “Wood Lot Committee” to “advise” the Commissioners about the future of the Wood Lot. Mr. Pallotta voted at a 5 minute Commissioners’ meeting on June 29, 2018 (lasting from 8:35 a.m. to 8:40 a.m.) to vote with one other Commissioner, Mr. Hanley (Commissioners Wright being absent) to “finalize” the Wood Lot Committee.
The Wood Lot Committee membership is skewed and fails to provide a voice for diverse community views about the Wood Lot. There is no voice for the conservation community and others who seek to preserve the Wood Lot– despite a request from a well-qualified representative to be named to the committee.
Mr. Pallotta’s hand-picked, lopsided Wood Lot Committee met on August 1, 2018 – not in Plymouth where the Wood Lot is located, but in Hanover. Chair Pallotta explained that the Committee has no authority, but is advisory only. Given the Commissioners’ long history of making unilateral decisions and carving the Wood Lot up into chunks and leasing it out – for a cell tower, fire fighting center, and sand and gravel – with only the minimum opportunity for public input – it is hard to see how the Wood Lot Committee is any thing more than window dressing for the County Commissioners.
Concerned residents are pulling back the blanket of secrecy that has allowed the Commissioners to operate without accountability and transparency for years.
Concerned Residents Advocate for Wood Lot
Despite these unfortunate events, concerned residents are continuing to pressure elected officials to stand up for the Wood Lot.
We want transparency and accountability in the process for determining the Wood Lot’s fate.
The way forward is clear — we will:
- evaluate legal options for appealing the Town’s August 1, 2018 denial of the Coalition for a Better Plymouth request for enforcement of the Special Permit
- continue to raise awareness about the unique ecological, cultural, and environmental heritage aspects of the Wood Lot
- push for enforcement of the County’s contract and a performance bond that reflects the legitimate, documented cost of site restoration
- document the presence of Massachusetts listed endangered, threatened and special concern species
Our goal is to
protect the Wood Lot from ill-advised, arbitrary and destructive
development by elected officials who refuse to acknowledge its’
ecological and cultural value