Plymouth: Spencer-G. Lopes mining operation continues along Route 3 partially on MassDOT land
Is this really “necessary and incidental” earth removal or a stand alone mining operation?
Save the Pine Barrens delivers a second demand for enforcement of the Plymouth Bylaw on February 8, 2023.
Watch the ruse unfold at the Planning Board hearings of January 11, 2022 and December 23, 2021.
Drone footage on September 23, 2022 Drone footage April 30, 2022
This came to light in May 2021 when residents noticed Spencer was excavating in plain view on Route 3 under a zoning permit that said “no gravel removal.” Under pressure, the Building Inspector issued a verbal cease and desist for a short while but work soon resumed.
When Spencer was forced to apply for a gravel removal permit, he claimed removing about 600,000 cubic yards was merely “necessary and incidental” to siting a 137,000 square foot “manufacturing building” on the site. During town proceedings during 2021 and 2022, a majority Zoning Board of Appeals, Plymouth Planning Board and Planning Department, Town Planner and Assistant Town Planner and Building Inspector all agreed. To most people, including ZBA member and one Planning Board member this was clearly a ruse.
The project is about 19 acres and is leveling hills by about 30 feet. Adjacent buildings are located on the existing hills and this could be sited with minimal earth removal and grading.
On February 8, 2023, Save the Pine Barrens delivered a second demand for enforcement of the Plymouth Zoning Bylaw to the Town of Plymouth Building Inspector’s office. The demand letter asserts:
- There is no record that the project has obtained the required state approval under the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act (MEPA);
- On January 4, 2023, the operation violated the Bylaw’s 40 truck limit and even causal observation shows violations are likely ongoing;
- Trucks leave the site without being weighed meaning this method cannot be used to determine the volume of earth removed;
- Law and facts presented to the Town establish that the earth removal is not now and never was “necessary and incidental” within the meaning of the Bylaw, Section 203-3(c)(4);
- Spencer no longer owns Northeast Traffic Controls the company that claimed the earth removal was necessary and incidental to siting the building.
The Building Inspector has 14 days to respond. The letter is here:
In June 2021, before he even owned the site, Scott Spencer contracted with Lopes Construction to excavate the site and purchase the sand and take it off site. At the January 2022 Planning Board hearing, Spencer told the Planning Board that if any sand was removed off site, it was a “misunderstanding” with the contractor, Lopes. Spencer’s own letter refutes that. He also said that any sand removed was for “testing” the soil. Really?
In 2022, Save the Pine Barrens requested enforcement from the Building Inspector, who refused to enforce the law. Work stopped temporarily after a Planning Board member reported the illegal activity in the spring but then resumed and continues today.
In January, 2023, violations of the Bylaw were discovered and a new enforcement request filed with the Building Inspector.
In January, 2022, a majority of the Planning Board voted to approve the project.
On May 18, 2022, the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals voted 1-4 to deny Save the Pine Barrens request for enforcement and to allow the mining to continue. Public hearings were held on April 27, 2022 and May 4, 2022.
One long time member voted against the ming, and called Spencer’s building plan a “ruse” for earth removal. The majority voted to allow it to continue.
The ZBA voted that the Planning Board and Building Inspector’s permit to allow the mining “was based on a well thought out and reasonable determination by the Planning Board and the Building Commissioner that the earth removal activity complied with the minimum requirements of the Zoning Bylaw under Section 203-15 Site Plan Review and the earth removal is incidental to the project under Section 203-2C.”
Due to issues of legal standing that make it almost impossible for local residents to challenge zoning decisions, STPB did not pursue the faulty ZBA decision in court.
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