What is at Stake?

googleearth

Above is a google Earth image of the Wood Lot. It spans from Tall Pines Road all the way to the solar panels off Camelot Dr.

Corehabitat

This photo was taken using OLIVER MassGIS. Which is an online data viewer with layered maps of ecological data. Please check out the facts for yourself: http://maps.massgis.state.ma.us/map_ol/oliver.php

CORE HABITAT: Species of conservation concern

Many species in MA that are under conservation concern face threats that are from habitat loss and climate change factors. This map targets conservation needs of individual species, particularly uncommon and potentially threatened species. There are 435 native plant and animal species listed under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA).

critical landscape

Critical Natural Landscapes:

The dynamic nature of intact landscapes provides an array of habitat types and patches that support an immense diversity of species. Conservation of landscapes is crucial to ensuring the long-term persistence of rare and native species and their habitats.

Landscapes and core habitat are complementary each represents biodiversity in MA. However, they each focus on different criteria.

ConservationConcern

Species of Conservation Concern:

Species of conservation concern include species that meet the criteria for listing under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, in addition to some that are considered a special concern. A species must meet strict criteria including rarity, population trends, and threats to survival.

Update: County Wood Lot Committee Meeting on Thursday 2/28 at 5:30 p.m.

Wood Lot Flyer 2019

Wood Lot Flyer Map 2019

This is meeting is open to the public and governed by the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law. Find out more about the law and the procedures the Sub-Committee must follow here: http://www.mass.gov/the-open-meeting-law

It is important for the public to show up at this meeting and voice their concerns during the public comment portion of the meeting.

The Wood Lot Sub-Commitee was hand picked by Chairman Pallotta to do his bidding. There is no representative of the conservation community on the Sub-Committee.  When asked to appoint someone, Mr. Pallotta refused.  There is only one representative from Plymouth on the Commitee of 5 people: Selectboard member Tony Provenzano who is pro-development and rarely stands up for conservation and preserving community character.  Plymouth’s voice must be heard in the deliberations over the future of the Wood Lot — so please show up and let them know how you feel!

You can also submit your comments in writing to any of the Commissioners and subcommittee members. Here are their emails:

Subcommittee Members:
Scituate Selectboard
Duxbury Selectboard
Tony Provenzano, Plymouth Selectman
provenzano@townhall.plymouth.ma.us
Norwell Fire Chief Andy Reardon areardon@norwellfire.org
Brockton City Councillor Robert Sullivan sullivanlaw2004@yahoo.com
Carver Selectboard
The Commissioners:
 Sandra Wright <smwred2@aol.com
Greg Hanley
Other County officials:
County Administrator Frank Basler <fbasler@plymouthcountyma.gov
Town of Plymouth, Town Manager: Melissa Arrighi <marrighi@townhall.plymouth.ma.us>

 

Why did the County spend $700,000 of the public’s money to buy access to the County Wood Lot – when they say they have “no plans” to develop it?

As reported in the Old Colony Memorial in June 2018, the County Advisory Board voted to transfer $700,000 from the sale of the old Brockton registry building to an account to be used to buy access to the County Wood Lot.  Negotiating behind closed doors, the County Commissioners then spent this money – $700,000 of the public’s money — to buy access lots assessed at a mere fraction of what they are worth.  Old Colony Article on Access Lots June 2018

Yet, the Commissioners say they have no plans to actually develop the Wood Lot.  Isn’t this the cart before the horse then? Spending $700,000 of public money for no purpose at all? For a development that may never come to pass?  Or is this just another part of the shell game being played by the County behind closed doors?

Why then, set up a “Wood Lot Subcommittee” to decide on the future of the Wood Lot? If this Subcommittee has any real clout, shouldn’t it have been able to weigh in on whether the County should have spent $700,000 on access — or on another alternative for the Wood Lot — like conservation?  Or is the Subcommittee a smokescreen to try to deflect the public’s attention, to lull the public into thinking the Commissioners are actually interested in what the public thinks?

All the facts point to the Subcommittee being a mere smokescreen.  Behind closed doors in a series of illegal “executive sessions” the Commissioners cut a deal for access, spending $700,000 of our money, without consulting anyone but themselves.  Now, they won’t even release the minutes of these executive session minutes and are forcing the public to go to the Attorney General’s Office to get them. Only after the fact of spending the money, when the public balked, then they set up the Subcommittee.

When challenged about access in June 2018, Commissioner Pallotta said “We actually already have access to the property through Tall Pines Road and frontage there as well. But we don’t want to disturb these neighbors.”  Can we believe Commissioner Pallotta when he says this?  No, we can’t.  If the County cared at all about the impact of the Wood Lot activities on the neighborhood or the Town fo Plymouth they would not have put in industrial sand and gravel operation a few hundred feet from residences — with 80 trucks a day in and out.

Why wasn’t that $700,000 spent on preserving the County Wood Lot instead of overpaying for access for a project that, if things continue this way, will be doomed by public opposition. We will continue to seek answers.

 

Let the County Commissioners know we are watching! Attend Wood Lot Subcommittee meeting Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at County’s Plymouth office

We are urging everyone to attend this important meeting about the Wood Lot.

The Coalition to Protect Natural Plymouth, through its Save the Wood Lot Ad Hoc Committee shared this letter with us:

***Beginning of Letter***

Dear Neighbor,

I would like to share some information with you regarding the County Woodlot, the 106-acre parcel of forest and meadow behind your sub-division.

The zoning consists of 20 acres of Light Industrial at the northern end on which the County Commissioners have installed a cell tower and attempted to develop a fire fighting training facility that never got off the ground.

In 2010, the County entered into a deal with a local businessman for $345,000 that granted him the right to remove the sand and gravel from the site. After our court challenge, I’m sorry to say that several acres of the forest have been cleared and sand and gravel mining operation has begun in the County Woodlot.

The remaining 86 acres in the southern portion, below the powerline right-of-way, are zoned Rural Residential and abuts the Tall Pines community and Town conservation land.

This year, the Commissioners made purchases of two lots adjacent to the County Woodlot for $675,000 that has given the County additional access to the property. Such access makes it more likely the County will seek to further develop the Woodlot.

We anticipate that in the coming weeks the commissioners will take under advisement the findings of a seven-member committee that has been charged with determining what is the highest and best use for this land.

This could include selling the land to the highest-bidding developer and/or allowing further sand and gravel mining or other industrial uses to occur.

I’d like to encourage you to attend the meetings of the County Woodlot Wood Lot Land Use Sub-Committee and show them that you care about the land near your home. The next meeting is November 15, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. at the Plymouth County Administration Building, 44 Obery Street, Plymouth, MA.

You can find postings of the Woodlot Subcommittee meetings on the County’s website at plymouthcountyma.gov. Please check this site for last minute cancellations.

More information about the Woodlot is available Online at https://savethecountywoodlot.com/.

You may direct questions or comments to slheller@comcast.net.

Sincerely,

Sharl Heller, 204 Long Pond Road, Plymouth, MA 02360

Additional information:

The County Woodlot lies within the Massachusetts Natural Heritage BioMap2 data layer for “Core Habitat.” Other data layers show that the Woodlot is marked “Critical Natural Landscape” and is covered by the data layer “Physical Resources” as a “Sole Source Aquifer” recharge area.

Deeded to the County in 1917 for the “Inhabitants of Plymouth County” as a woodlot for public use, the residents of Plymouth have had free and unfettered access to the Woodlot for wood gathering, hunting and recreation.

Beginning in 2008 the County Commissioners have eyed the Woodlot as a source of revenue to cover budget shortfalls. Most recently the forested land in northern portion was scraped and a sand and gravel mining operation is currently in operation where once some of the most beautiful forest on the property existed.

An on-the-ground ecological assessment of the County Woodlot is needed to understand the full value of the County Woodlot as a recreational and natural resource.

Please take the time to attend the County Woodlot Subcommittee meetings and express your thoughts on the highest and best use of the property in your neighborhood.

****End of Letter****

The County Commissioners like to play games with the Open Meeting Law, and instead of posting meetings well in advance, they do the bare minimum posting only 48 hours before the meeting. Naturally, this prevents the public from knowing about the meeting until almost the last minute.  It forces the public to constantly check the County website for the meeting notice to find out when it might be.

It makes it almost impossible for anyone to actually attend the County’s meetings, including the Wood Lot meetings, because it’s practically impossible to find out in advance when they are.  This, of course, is exactly how the Commissioners like things — keeping the public in the dark and instead of embracing open government, doing everything they can to sidestep the law.

We will do our best to inform the public of the Wood Lot meetings, since so much is at stake for this wonderful property located in the heart of the Plymouth Pine Barrens.  Despite the County’s outrageous shell games, dishonesty, and blatant disregard for the public’s interest, we will continue to push for transparency.

 

 

 

 

County Commissioners continue to hide public records & stonewall citizen efforts to obtain transparency in County government

On September 27, 2018, we wrote that the County Commissioners are “abusing their authority and blatantly violating the open meeting law, making decisions that affect every resident of the County, behind closed doors, invoking “executive session” then refusing to produce the minutes of those executive sessions.” We have continued our investigation of the County Commissioners’ activities revealing an even more troubling picture.

In August and September 2018, we invoked the state’s public records law to try to get public documents from the County Commissioners that they are required to provide to the public on request. These documents are records of their meetings and decisions. The County stonewalled and refused to provide the documents we asked for. We appealed their refusal to the Massachusetts Secretary of State who handles these appeals. Read our appeal here.  Appeal of Public Records Violation

About the same time we also filed an extensive appeal to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office under the Open Meeting Law. Part of this appeal involves the County’s refusal to produce public records and their blatant, repeated, intentional abuse of the state’s Open Meeting Law. These violations are described in detail in our appeal to the Attorney General.  Read that here: Open Meeting Law Violations Letter  (Let us know if you would like copies of the back-up documentation to the letter).

On October 31, 2018, the Supervisor of Public records, seeing our appeal to the Attorney General, closed our public records appeal pending the Attorney General’s review. State’s Response on Public Records Violations

We continue to have grave concerns about the County’s lack of transparency, blatant distain for the public’s right to know about what goes on in their so-called “executive sessions” — most of which are entirely illegal.

The County makes important decisions about the public’s property, collects “fees” from its member municipalities, and runs county government. The County Commissioners, the County Advisory Board and all the employees work for the taxpayers and residents of the County. By law, they are accountable to the public. Yet, they operate like a fiefdom, behind closed doors, violating even the most basic rules of open meetings and public records.

We will continue to fight to make the County accountable. Not only for the destruction of the publicly owned County Woodlot but for their blatant abuses of power exercised behind closed doors out of the public’s views.

Stay tuned: we are a determined group of residents who care about the County Wood Lot and everything the County does that impacts our local communities.