Scams to evade municipal bylaws include “cranberry agriculture”, “subdivision road,” “site preparation” for industrial solar, and residential and commercial projects that never materialize as promised by developers or do not actually require earth removal at all
Plymouth, Carver, Wareham and other town officials complicit, issue permits for blatant scams
In Dec. 2022, Mass. Dept. of Agriculture doles out $ 1 million in “cranberry renovation grants” to some of the worst strip mine offenders as politicians heap praise
Under numerous scams, a network of interconnected landowners, public officials and trucking companies conduct industrial sand and gravel mining to extract lucrative earth materials for commercial sale. Under Massachusetts law earth removal is regulated at the municipal level. It is prohibited except under certain exemptions. This network exploits the loopholes with the help of engineers, lawyers and town officials.
In a coordinated pattern for decades, this network obtains “earth removal permits” — or in some towns like Wareham don’t get them at all, claiming it is exempt from the law because it is agriculture. It is not agriculture at all but industrial sand and gravel mining. The typical scams are:
Cranberry agriculture, building a cranberry bog or “renovating” a bog, building a reservoir or “tailwater recovery pond” – AD Makepeace, Slocum Gibbs Cranberry, Johnson Brothers Cranberry, EJ Pontiff and dozens more
Commercial development – such as Colony Place or 10 Collins Ave./Spencer in Plymouth
Residential subdivision – such as Spencer/Yellow Maple LLC/Sheava Development in Plymouth
Commercial subdivision – such as SLT Construction in Plymouth
Carver Earth Removal Committee – Who’s Who
John Garretson, III, ERC Chairman from about 1990 to 2021, owner and operator of Slocum Gibbs Cranberry. While he was ERC Chair, he conducted over a decade of mining operations removing up to a million cubic yards of sand and gravel (worth $9 million) from two sites owned by his company Slocum Gibbs. Garretson’s company obtained one ERC permit from his Committee under the pretense of “Agricultural Excavation” for mining on his Tremont Street property. Garretson conducted mining on his Wareham Street property with no ERC permit. Read the demand for enforcement to the Carver ERC here and Ethics Complaint here. No response from Ethics Commission received as of 10/12/2022; no response from the ERC.
Garretson was pivotal in granting at least five Earth Removal Permits to AD Makepeace from 2008 to 2020. For example, the 2019 and 2020 permits to Makepeace were signed by Garretson (as well as Shurtleff and Ieronimo, also with conflicts of interest — see below). Garretson staged pretenses of “public hearings” and ignored reports of violations. For almost two decades he allowed AD Makepeace to conduct industrial sand and gravel mining under the pretense of “Agricultural Excavation.” Garretson has business and personal relationships with the CEO of AD Makepeace, Jim Kane and a Garretson relative, Terry Gibbs works for AD Makepeace’s Read Custom Soils.
John Shurtleff, Jr. owner and operator of Triple J Screening and Trucking, Shurtleff Sand & Stone, member of ERC for decades, resigned suddenly in 2021. Shurtleff trucks sand and gravel for AD Makepeace (details available on request), SLT Construction, and trucked from Garretson/Slocum Gibbs site on Tremont Street. Shurtleff signed Earth Removal Permits for AD Makepeace and SLT Construction during the time when he was trucking sand and gravel for these companies. Shurtleff signed permits for AD Makepeace when he knew or should have known Makepeace’s earth removal operations were being done under the pretense of “Agricultural Excavation.” Shurtleff knew or should have known SLT’s “subdivision preparation” at the Rickets Pond Business Park was a ruse for sand and gravel mining.
Shurtleff is also owner and operator of River’s Edge Realty, which sold land to Foley Farms for earth removal on Rochester Road/Jabez Bridge Road in Carver. Shurtleff participated in overseeing the first ERC permit given to Foley Farm in about 2019. Foley obtained a second permit in 2021 after Shurtleff abruptly resigned from the ERC. Shurtleff continued to haul sand and gravel from the Foley site. Foley obtained both Earth Removal Permits from the ERC under the pretense of Agricultural Excavation for cranberry bogs and a “blueberry farm.” Foley and Shurtleff appear to be involved with AGDA-Haseotis conducting earth removal in Carver. AGDA also conducting earth removal in East Bridgewater. Enforcement demand involving Shurtleff here, Ethics Complaint here and Ethics Commission warning letter regarding Shurtleff here.
Robert Ieronimo, current chair of ERC, member of ERC since about 2006. Owns and operates New England Excavation. For years worked for AD Makepeace excavating and trucking sand and gravel. Owns cranberry bogs. Ethics Complaint here and Ethics Commission warning letter on Ieronimo here. He conducts sham public hearings, such as the farce on January 25, 2023 when he did not know the basic duties of a chair to open and close a public hearing. He conducted the hearing even though the permit applications for the two projects had only been submitted to the ERC, allegedly, that day. The public was effectively denied access to the permits that were the subject of the public hearings.
James Nauen, member of ERC and Conservation Commission for decades – resigned, 2022. Provided cover and rubber stamps fpr all permits for sand and gravel industry. Signed numerous permits for AD Makepeace and others for earth removal under the pretense of “Agricultural Excavation.” Also served on the Carver Conservation Commission rubber stamping permits.
Richard “Dick” Ward, member of ERC for decades. Cranberry bog owner, rubber stamps earth removal permits, son Steve Ward works as a consultant helping to permit ground mounted solar projects on cranberry bogs and locations where sand and gravel permits have been granted by the ERC. Steve Ward conducts earth removal himself. Dick Ward is self-proclaimed member of the Southeastern Mass “Cranberry Cosa Nostra” according to this newspaper article:
2013 Profile of Carver Selectboard Candidates: “Issue 3: Sustainable agricultural tax base. Our main industry is cranberries. My opponent has called the cranberry industry, of which I am a part, the “Cranberry Cosa Nostra.” Instead of calling our main industry the mafia, shouldn’t we be trying to encourage this industry to be sustainable? It’s our primary tax base! The industry helps support us and our tax base, so I’m an advocate of working with this industry.”
John Mason, ERC member appointed by the Selectboard, August 2022. Works for AD Makepeace and Slocum Gibbs Cranberry. Both companies conduct earth removal under cover of permits from the ERC.
Carver Conservation Commission – Who’s Who
Alan Germain, member, Vice Chair, owns and operates AGT trucking. Trucks sand and gravel for SLT Construction, including at SLT’s Spring Street, Carver mining site. Participates in Conservation Commission matters involving SLT’s wetlands permitting. Read the Ethics Complaint here. State Ethics Commission warning letter states it “does not mean your complaint is without merit.” In addition to the ERC, Germain is also Chair of the Carver Finance Committee and vice Chair of Carver Conservation Commission.
Germain has been involved in efforts to obtain Planning Board permits for commercial buildings in SLT’s Rickets Pond Business Park located on the mining site on Spring Street (Planning Board public hearing videos available on Area 58 cable TV). Carver Concerned Citizens filed a show cause petition to remove him from the Conservation Commission for inappropriate behavior and conflicts of interest. The Carver Selectboard refusesd to hold a public show cause hearing and is complicit in Germain’s actions.
Carver Selectboard appoints ERC members and is responsible
John Cotter, Selectboard member and former or present comptroller at AD Makepeace Co.
Sarah Hewins, former Conservation Agent, now member of Selectboard. As Carver Conservation Agent, oversaw granting wetlands permits to sand and gravel mining operations such as Alex Johnson Cranberry and Bette Maki on Meadow Street. Now responsible for appointing members of the ERC.
Carver’s Weston Family: cranberries, sand and gravel mining, and Cranberry Point 2018 Battery Bomb zoning change
The Weston family is heavily involved in cranberry operations and sand and gravel removal. In addition, a zoning change was orchestrated in 2018 to dupe Carver voters into changing zoning to allow industrial scale battery storage in residential-agricultural districts. This made it possible for Gary & Craig Weston to lease their land to Cranberry Point-Power Plus for a controversial 150-MW battery storage facility.
The Weston family involvement in the sand and gravel removal and cranberry industry includes:
Gary and Craig Weston: Franklin Marsh LLC massive sand mining operation under the false pretense of Agricultural Excavation, Plymouth Street, Carver and Wareham. In January 2023, with Beals+Thomas the Weston’s scammed Plymouth into approving 5 acres of “floating solar” – 5 acres is just below the limit for a special permit — on their new “cranberry reservoir.” Now they get to profit and scam again.
Gary and Craig Weston, via realty trust, benefit from 2018 zoning change so they can lease land to Power Plus for battery bomb facility
Gary Weston: manager for massive sand and gravel mining operation by Federal Furnace Cranberry, Carver MA
Elaine Weston: works for Town of Carver as assistant to Town Administrator; former Earth Removal Committee secretary for years, including while family members obtained Earth Removal Permits. Was responsible for Public Records Responses by Carver ERC.