Plymouth: ZBA ignores AD Makepeace mining operation under the false pretense of cranberry agriculture
On December 14, 2022, the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) sided with Makepeace claiming that a 214-acre sand and gravel mine is a “agricultural project”
ZBA allowed Makepeace to continue its ruse of mining allegedly to create a cranberry bog; ignored the evidence to cover for illegal operations
On December 14, 2022, the Plymouth ZBA voted 3-2 to side with the Town’s building inspector on STPB’s request for enforcement of the Bylaw. The ZBA ruled that Makepeace’s earth removal permit conditions are “discretionary” and that the mining operation is “necessary and incidental” to building bogs — a completely illegal and unsupportable decision. Read the ZBA’s cover up for Makepeace here. This makes a mockery of the Town’s bylaws.
Lawyers for Save the Pine Barrens told the Zoning Board of Appeals Makepeace’s cranberry bog plans are a ruse. The volume of earth removal under the 2014 permit is enough to fill Gillette Stadium almost ¾ of a mile high. Within two miles in Carver and Wareham, Makepeace has excavated at least 7.9 million cubic yards.
During the hearing on December 7th, ZBA Chair Main stated:
“I don’t know where the sand went” that Makepeace has excavated from Plymouth, and
“I don’t know how much” they excavated and shipped from the site.
The purpose of the Earth Removal Bylaw is to keep track of how much sand and gravel is being removed from the Town and where it goes. Main makes a mockery of the Bylaw, again.
The ZBA agreed Makepeace’s zoning permit expired and the company’s lawyer said they had “no current plans” to continue the mining operation so until the Building Inspector slips Makepeace a permit behind closed doors, there should be no work at the site.
The ZBA chair expressed “disappointment” that Makepeace had misled them for a year about the obligation to conserve 300 acres under the permit but the majority ruled for Makepeace anyway.
The ZBA’s vote (on December 7th) confirmed the Town’s position that the earth removal permit that is required to have enforceable conditions to protect our water, forests and community is in fact unenforceable. It is convenient for Makepeace that the ZBA issued an unenforceable permit. Now the ZBA can claim they do not have to enforce the Bylaw or the Permit. This is like issuing a driver’s license that means nothing.
Where’s the land? A condition of the 2014 Special Permit requires the company to donate 300 acres of land to conservation to Plymouth as mitigation. At the last minute at the December 7, 2022 hearing Makepeace did an about face, saying the land was not yet in conservation but would be soon. In three prior hearings the company misrepresented the status and said the land was conserved.
Where’s the sand? In 2021, Makepeace CEO and President Jim Kane claimed to Wareham that it is using all the sand and gravel it mines there for “agriculture.” In Plymouth, Makepeace has extracted an unknown volume of sand. Where did it go?
See the site here: drone video at about 34 seconds you start to see the 35+ acres of mining. This is part of the 200 acres that will be mined. The entire forested area surrounding it will be clearcut and strip mined for sand and gravel leaving a barren, denuded pit where nothing can grow again in human time.
See Save the Pine Barrens Dec. 1, 2022 Brief to the ZBA is here.
Makepeace sells sand and gravel mined from its lands at its Read Custom Soils facility on the Plymouth Carver line, and directly to customers. Makepeace supplies 12 concrete and asphalt manufacturers and businesses in New England. All the sand and gravel is mined either with permits obtained under the ruse of “agricultural operations” or without permits. This ruse is explained fully in Save the Pine Barrens Nov. 23, 2022 submittal to MassDEP.
In 2014, Makepeace obtained a Special Permit from the Plymouth ZBA for a 214-acre sand and gravel mining operation for 7.2 million cubic yards. The company claimed this was “necessary and incidental” to build cranberry bogs. Claiming cranberry agriculture, Makepeace could try to shoehorn the mining operation into “agricultural” zoning.
At this site, Makepeace mined in the Sole Source Aquifer as shown on satellite images. Once we exposed this, the company filled in the hole.
| PRESS RELEASE|
MAKEPEACE BOG PROJECT AT FROGFOOT BROOK IN PLYMOUTH
A RUSE FOR 7.2 MILLION CUBIC YARD MINING OPERATION
• Plymouth “earth removal” permit expired in 2020, Makepeace continues strip mining in endangered species habitat
• Building Commissioner tells ZBA permit conditions for quarterly inspections are “discretionary”
• In over eight years, no mandatory inspections done
• Makepeace “double dips” cannot document compliance with condition to conserve 300 acres as required by the permit
Save the Pine Barrens (STPB) appeared before the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday April 20, 2022 for a public hearing challenging the refusal by the Building Commissioner to enforce a 2014 earth removal permit issued to AD Makepeace (Makepeace). The Building Commissioner claimed the permit conditions requiring quarterly inspections of the project were “discretionary.”
In 2014, the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals issued a 2 year earth removal permit to AD Makepeace to extract 7.2 million cubic yards of sand and gravel from 309 acres of globally rare endangered species habitat in south Plymouth. Makepeace claims the massive sand and gravel operation is solely necessary to build a 136-acre cranberry bog project.
To date, only 11% of the bogs have been built but vast quantities of sand and gravel have been removed. The Building Commissioner produced no records to show the volume of earth removed or whether it was used for cranberry bogs as AD Makepeace claims. At the hearing, STPB told the Board that Makepeace used this same claim about building bogs in permit applications to the Town of Carver in order to get at least four earth removal permits since 2011 but has not built the cranberry bogs. Makepeace operates an industrial aggregate processing facility in Carver at its Read Custom Soils site.
The Board renewed the expired 2014 permit three times without requiring evidence of the inspection reports, volumes of earth removed, documentation of truck routes, or payment of earth removal fees. The permit expired in March 2020. Makepeace is continuing to work at the site.
The Town could not explain why the permit was allowed to expire in 2020, why conditions protecting groundwater were ignored, why there were no inspections, and why Makepeace had not provided satisfactory records to show they met the permit condition of conserving 300 acres of land. STPB’s attorney told the Town that Makepeace is “double dipping” by trying to use land sold to the state for conservation to satisfy the obligation to Plymouth to conserve 300 acres of land and this was not what the permit required. The Board asked Makepeace to provide further evidence that the 300 acres are conserved by the next meeting.
Building Commissioner Mayo recommended that the Town hire the engineering firm of Beal+Thomas to investigate whether AD Makepeace is violating the 2014 permit. STPB objected on the grounds that AD Makepeace is a major client of Beals+Thomas and there is an obvious conflict of interest.
“The Building Commissioner’s claim that permit compliance is ‘discretionary’ is like saying people driving in Plymouth don’t have to obey the speed limit because it is just a “recommendation” said Meg Sheehan, volunteer with Save the Pine Barrens. “On top of that, Makepeace is operating without a permit. That’s like saying it’s OK to drive without a permit in Plymouth.”
Sheehan told the Board a special permit under zoning laws is a privilege not a right, and the Board owes the public the highest level of due diligence in making sure companies that get permits comply with them. The permit the Board granted to Makepeace in 2014 has specific protective conditions to protect the Plymouth Carver Sole Source Aquifer. STPB presented satellite images to show Makepeace appears to be excavating in the groundwater and may have unlawfully disposed of solid waste on a portion of the site. It appeared that cranberry bogs were built over the disposal site.
The Board will continue the public hearing on Wednesday May 18, 2022 at 7 p.m. in the Great Hall at Plymouth Town Hall on Court Street.
The site is a 136-acre parcel in south Plymouth near the Wareham border off Tihonet Road on Makepeace’s vast landholdings near Myles Standish State Forest. The land is globally rare pine barrens forest with the state’s highest ranking for endangered plants and animals. The area was targeted by MassWildlife in 2009 for protection but the agency has reneged on its statutory duty to protect forests and species under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. The forests and sand and gravel Makepeace is stripping off filter the Plymouth Carver Sole Source Aquifer that is very vulnerable to contamination. The 199 square mile Aquifer is the sole source of drinking water for seven towns, including Plymouth. In some areas, the Aquifer is already polluted with industrial wastes.
Here is the response from Makepeace regarding the 300 acres for the strip mine disguised as “Farm of the Future.” According to Beals+Thomas, Makepeace’s engineering firm, so far Makepeace has clear-cut and mined 69 acres of the Site. It is Priority Habitat under NHESP and archeologically significant for Native American culture.