Carver: Complaint against Makepeace’s zoning violations goes to court; hearing to be held Thursday, September 22, 2022

A large pile of excavated sand at one of Makepeace’s sites on Federal Road

At six sites along Federal Road in Carver, significant sand and gravel removal is taking place. Entire hillsides have been leveled, and massive volumes of sand gravel have been carted off site and sold for commercial purposes. Hundreds of tractor trailers full of clean silica sand leave Federal Road on a weekly basis to sell the valuable sand to landscape companies out of town. The sites themselves look like moonscapes, devoid of vegetation and covered in nothing but gravel and sand. All this activity is occuring a section of Carver that is zoned as Residential Agricultural, not Industrial. Local Carver residents who live near the sites argue the area has essentially become an unregulated sand and gravel mine.

For over a year, Carver residents and Save the Pine Barrens have been bringing zoning law violations to the attention of officials in the Town of Carver; however they have not taken any action to investigate the earth removal activity which is at the heart of the residents’ concerns. Since April 2021, residents, along with Save the Pine Barrens, have been writing letters to Carver requesting enforcement of the local zoning laws. At the center of their concerns is the rare Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens, an unique ecosystem of pitch pine, scrub oak, and rare plant and animal species, that sits atop a large aquifer, from which every Town resident gets their drinking water. However, this aquifer consists of millions of cubic feet of clean silica sand, sand that is very valuable in the construction market. The group argues that AD Makepeace is doing a bait and switch with the local zoning board, receiving permits for agricultural development, but in fact operating a sand mine instead. And the local officials have refused to investigate.

Throughout 2021, letters were sent to both Carver and Wareham about the danger of the trucks speeding by on the rural, winding Federal Road, and the conflicts of interest in that several members of the Carver Earth Removal Committee, charged with regulating AD Makepeace, either do business with Makepeace itself or work in the cranberry industry. Residents have also written letters to Carver concerned about the forest clear cuts, and the complete loss of vegetation on the sites.

Fed up with lack of action or investigation into the sand mining on the part of Carver officials, Carver residents along with Save the Pine Barrens are bringing the matter before Plymouth County Superior Court, in an effort to force the local committees to enforce the zoning laws and investigate the violations. They argue that these earth removal activities are in fact an industrial land use, as they go way beyond “necessary and incidental” to the proposed agricultural use of the site, and that Makepeace is in fact running an industrial mining operation. 

The matter will be heard before Superior Court this Thursday, September 22, 2022, and a judge will determine if their legal complaint about zoning law violations has legal merit. Save the Pine Barrens urges anyone with an interest in protecting the Pine Barrens or the Plymouth Carver Aquifer to attend.