This “development” project is a ruse to extract over 600,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel from 19 acres
The Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Building Inspector are going along with this farce
In Feb. 2023 the Plymouth Building Inspector denied a second demand for enforcement to stop this egregious violation of the zoning law
MassDOT is complicit because it has granted Spencer Realty an “easement” — does this include allowing the extraction of sand and gravel?
July 21, 2023 drone video shows a stand alone mining operation — far exceeding what’s necessary for “site preparation” for a manufacturing facility that is largely a fiction
In mid-2021, Plymouth residents noticed Spencer Realty LLC had started sand and gravel mining at a 19-acre site located at 10 Collins Ave. in plain view on Route 3. The Building Inspector Nick Mayo had issued a land clearing permit that said “no gravel removal.” Landowner Scott Spencer of Spencer Realty LLC and G. Lopes Construction started land clearing, excavation and exporting sand and gravel off site by truck anyway. This violated the “land clearing permit.”
Further, the Building Inspector had no authority to is “land clearing” for a project that involved massive mining and alleged construction of a manufacturing building on 19 acres. The Town’s zoning law says when land is developed, the landowner must maintain the “natural conditions” on the site as determined by Planning Board and ZBA review. The project also required an earth removal approval.
Spencer and Lopes started stripping the land, including buffers, so that it was impossible to maintain the “natural conditions” making the zoning review of the “natural conditions” a farce. They stripped the land without Planning Board and ZBA review. Under pressure, the Building Inspector issued a verbal cease and desist order Spencer and Lopes. The work stopped temporarily.
After the public exposed the violations by Spence and Lopes, the landowner, Scott Spencer was finally required to apply for a sand and gravel removal permit. He applied under the name of “Northeast Traffic Controls.”, a business Spencer has since sold to a Georgia company. Spencer stated in public hearings that the massive sand and gravel mining operation for 600,000 cubic yards was “necessary and incidental” to prepare the site for a 137,000 square foot “manufacturing building”. The 600,000 cubic yards is worth about $6,000,000. Spencer’s plan was a clear ruse to obtain a permit for mining, as one of the ZBA members stated in a public hearing. The mining is not necessary: the surrounding commercial buildings in this area are built within the existing topography.
There were town hearings and meetings in 2021 and 2022. A majority of the Zoning Board of Appeals, Plymouth Planning Board and Planning Department, Town Planner and Assistant Town Planner and Building Inspector all agreed with Spencer that this mining operation was just “necessary” “site preparation” for the manufacturing building. At the January 2022 Planning Board hearing, Spencer told the Planning Board that if any sand was removed off site without a permit, it was a “misunderstanding” with the contractor, Lopes. Spencer’s own letter refutes that. Spencer said at the hearing that the truckloads of sand observed and documented hauling sand from the site being were just samples for “testing”. Really? This was a blatant misrepresentation and the Town did nothing.
Common sense shows that Spencer’s plan did not require this extensive mining operation. One ZBA member and one Planning Board member stated at the hearings and meetings this was a ruse to extract sand and gravel.
In 2022, Save the Pine Barrens requested enforcement to stop this expanding and extensive mining operation, from the Building Inspector, who refused to enforce the law. After the Building Inspector issued his usual denial of a request that he enforce the law, STPB appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Public hearings on STPB’s request for enforcement were held on April 27, 2022 and May 4, 2022. A majority of the ZBA denied the enforcement request saying this is just “necessary site preparation” for Spencer’s manufacturing building. On May 18, 2022, the ZBA voted 1-4 to allow the mining to continue. The ZBA member voting against the mining called Spencer’s building plan a “ruse” for earth removal.
The majority of 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.” The Bylaw does not allow this type of ruse. The ZBA and Planning Board failed to do their jobs. The failed to require credible engineering evidence that the scope and scale of the mining was “necessary” and that there was no alternative to digging the 50-foot hole that is seen today.
Town refuses to pursue enforcement requests, allowing mining to continue as of September 2023
In January, 2023, violations of the Bylaw and Spencer’s permit were documented by community members. STPB filed a new enforcement request filed with the Building Inspector on February 8, 2023. Again, the Building Inspector denied the request despite credible evidence of violations.
The February 8, 2023 enforcement request states:
- 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.
When the Building Inspector denied the request STPB did not take the next step to appeal to the ZBA, since the ZBA had demonstrated its clear bias in favor of sand and gravel mining. Over the last three decades the ZBA has issued permits for tens of millions of cubic yards of earth removal under false pretenses. STPB’s February 8, 2023 enforcement request letter is here:
Below: G.Lopes Construction, Inc. June 1, 2021 letter to landowner Spencer admitting sand and gravel mining and removal was being conducted before a permit was issued.
In January, 2022, a majority of the Planning Board voted to approve the project.