Cranberry Country Corruption, General, Sand mining in Southeastern Massachusetts

Halifax: August, 2022 VICTORY! Grassroots campaign stops the Morse Bros. “Big Dig”

Campaign exposes “earth removal” proposal by Morse Brothers Cranberry Co. being done under the ruse of “cranberry agriculture

Selectboard members resign when conflicts of interest exposed – Chair works for excavating and aggregate mining company Ryco

Local groups ask why state officials refuse to act to protect Monponsett Pond, sole source aquifer from strip mining by cranberry operators filing permits for “agricultural excavation” to evade local bylaw prohibitions against earth removal

The law: why this proposal is using “cranberry agriculture” as a ruse for commercial mining

Like many towns in Southeastern Massachusetts, Halifax adopted a general bylaw to prohibit earth removal due to its detrimental effects on water supplies, real estate values and the environment. Halifax adopted General Bylaw, Chapter 144, “Soil Removal.” It prohibits earth removal on land zoned agricultural or residential unless the project qualifies for a permit.

Bylaw: Section 144-1. Permit required. No soil, sand, gravel or loam removal shall be permitted in any area unless and until a permit has been granted by the Board of Selectmen.

Then the says to get a permit, the applicant has to show the removal is either “incidental” to a subdivision road, or that it is “agricultural” excavation to make a farm project. Morse tried to claim this was an agricultural excavation for cranberry bogs.

The Town also has a law prohibiting earth removal within 4 feet of the groundwater. Morse wanted to dig into the groundwater to obtain sand and gravel.

The problem is, this is an age-old ruse in Southeastern Mass. The Supreme Judicial Court in 1994 followed a case involving an earth removal proposal in Plymouth to create a cranberry bog and remove 460,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel over two years from land zoned residential-agricultural. The “agricultural project” was ruled by the court to be a quarrying/sand and gravel removal — an industrial use not allowed in the residential-agricultural zone. The court said the scope, scale and duration and the “net effect” of the earth removal meant that it was a stand alone earth removal operation. It was not allowed under the bylaw, which is much like the Halifax bylaw.

In Halifax, Morse tried to evade the bylaw that prohibits using his land for an industrial-commercial mining/sand and gravel operation by saying the removal was necessary for his agricultural project – cranberry bogs. This proposal was for 1.15 million cubic yards – double what the state’s courts have held was a ruse. Under the court cases, this project was in reality a prohibited mining operation. This ruse has been rejected time and again by the state’s courts. And the people of Halifax passed a law against this type of mining in a residential agricultural zone. Morse has to play by the rules.

This exact scenario is playing out in Carver. On Nov. 2, 2022 a Ten Residents Group argued for a preliminary injunction to stop 150 acres of strip mining by AD Makepeace Cranberry Co. – removing 7.9 million cubic yards of sand and gravel. Enough to fill Gillette Stadium almost 3/4 of a mile high. The Group argues this is not “agricultural excavation ” under the Supreme Judicial Court case.

Halifax Plympton Express:

JUNE 24, 2022 BY KRISTY ZAMAGNI-TWOMEY, EXPRESS CORRESPONDENT

The Halifax Selectmen met in-person on the evening of June 14. There was a public hearing for earth removal for the Morse Brothers’ cranberry property. Selectman Alex Meade said, “I remember most of the residents’ concerns were about the roadway itself and dust control. Since then, we’ve had questions about runoff from the trucks so leaking hydraulics things like that. I don’t know if you plan on putting in some kind of catch basin filters in?” “Certainly, we would be willing to talk about that,” the Morse Brothers representative said.

Meade said he would like to have a clear-cut definition of what the expectations are for the road condition as well as dust control. The spokesman said that the earth removal was necessary because the current layout is not conducive to newer ways of growing cranberries. “The things that we are talking about make sense for cranberry production. If we change the property to the new way, it now becomes a highest and best use for that property… there are good things for the town, there are good things for the grower… at the end of the day, we just want to coexist,” he continued.

They showed maps of the property to the residents present for the hearing and said that they were also available at Mass Mapper under Zone 2. Residents spoke about their concerns including home depreciation and the safety of children. One resident said that they already deal with being inconvenienced in September and October but said that was just part of the cranberry business. He said, however, that this was different and would cause disruption for years. Another resident said that he worries about the environmental impact of the properties surrounding the one in question including walking trails leading into Burrage. Another resident asked that the official abutters list be expanded to include more properties. Someone else expressed concern about the ability of first responders to get through to homes given the heavy truck traffic which was described as sounding like an “earthquake.”

The Selectmen agreed to do a site visit and then revisit the project in early August. “I don’t think we are at a point in this project to vote either way,” Selectmen Chair Ashley DiSesa said.

Town’s peer review of Morse Bros. earth removal proposal:

Application from Morse Brothers Inc and Grady Consulting for Earth Removal Permit for 250 Lingan Street

Earth Removal Sites: