Claremont Plymouth LLC can’t proceed with excavating pond, wetlands for new stormwater system without showing compliance with Wetlands Protection Act and Town Wetlands Bylaw
August 29, 2023 – The Claremont Plymouth LLC plan for 348 residential units in Colony Place continues to face regulatory hurdles. The developer plans to dredge and fill in a pond and wetland in order to redo the stormwater management system for the 60-acre Colony Place mall. This requires a permit under the state Wetlands Protection Act and town Wetlands Protective Bylaw, according to a request filed by CLWC with the Conservation Commission.
The Zoning Board of Appeals issued a special permit for the project in March 2023. Abutters to the site have appealed the permit to court and have alleged Open Meeting Law violations. The project is contingent on the “secret water deal” made between the ZBA, the Selectboard and the developer in November 2022. On August 4, 2023, the Attorney General’s Office ruled the ZBA and Selectboard violated the Open Meeting Law when they met in secret to clinch the deal.
In July, 2023, the Planning Board issued a decision saying the developer could alter and dredge the existing pond and wetlands without a permit in order to make it in to a new stormwater system. This decision did not follow the law. The current ponds are being used for stormwater management for the entire Colony Place (60 acres) Stormwater runoff from buildings, parking lots and other surfaces is called “non point source pollution”. It pollutes our water if not handled properly. State and federal laws govern this type of water pollution to keep our water clean and safe.
The Wetlands Laws
Claremont’s alteration of the ponds and wetlands Colony Place site to make a new stormwater system clearly requires a permit from the Conservation Commission — unless Claremont, the developer and the Commission can prove that it is exempt. The wetlands laws protect our drinking water, rivers, streams, wildlife habitat, help prevent flooding and have many other purposes. There is a narrow exemption under the law for redoing stormwater systems such as the ponds and wetlands on the Claremont site. To qualify for this wetlands exemption, Claremont must show that the existing stormwater system was built and maintained according to the laws. Neither the Planning Department and Conservation Commission nor Claremont have explained why Claremont’s project is exempt from the Wetlands Protection Act and Town Bylaw. In such a case, the wetlands law allows any person to file a request with the Conservation Commission seeking a “determination” (Request for Determination of Applicability) about whether or not the law applies. This is what CLWC filed with the Plymouth Conservation Commission on August 29, 2023. The RDA filing is below. If the Conservation Commission rules the law applies, Claremont has to get a wetlands permit to alter the ponds and wetlands. Learn more about to enforce the wetlands laws from our Wetlands Forum held in July, 2022.
The next step is for the Conservation Commission to send out abutter notices, hold a public meeting, and vote on whether a permit (called a Notice of Intent application and Order of Conditions permit) is required under the state and local wetlands laws.
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This case is important to the issue of whether Plymouth is properly implementing the Towns’ stormwater rules! These are very important rules required by state and federal laws in order to prevent water pollution. If the laws are not properly followed, stormwater runoff can pollute our Sole Source Aquifer and drinking water wells. The stormwater can runoff through storm drains and pipes or over land into Plymouth Harbor. Stormwater runoff contributes to water pollution, bacteria outbreaks and other contamination that harms our ability to use the water for swimming, boating, fishing and shellfishing.