Working together, Mattapoisett and the Coalition have filed a complaint for contempt in Plymouth County Superior Court seeking to compel property owner Daniel Craig to comply with his obligations under the law and to restore the damaged wetlands and protected buffer zone areas he unlawfully filled at least five years ago.
“This is an egregious violation of state environmental law,” said Korrin Petersen, senior attorney for the Coalition. “This continued evasion of responsibility must stop. We are grateful for the Town of Mattapoisett’s persistence and we will continue to pursue restoration of these natural resources.”
Mattapoisett Town Administrator Michael Gagne said the Town’s long-standing efforts to address the situation reflect its commitment to protecting natural resources.
“When someone destroys and damages lands that are protected by municipal and state laws, we are going to make sure that they are fully restored to the condition prior to the violation,” said Mattapoisett Town Administrator Michael Gagne. “The courts have repeatedly found that the Town’s enforcement order is valid. The restoration of this property is long overdue.”
The case stems back to 2015 when Mattapoisett’s Conservation Commission learned of potential violations of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act along Eel Pond. When Seabreeze Lane was originally developed in 2000, specific protections were placed on the development to mitigate construction impacts on the pond’s health and habitats. Google Earth images revealed newly filled lawn and garden structures in areas previously shown as wetlands and associated wetland buffer. The Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program, a unit of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, provided satellite image analysis to further prove the extent of and timeline for these unauthorized alterations. The Coalition reviewed the aerial photographs showing extensive clearing and filling of protected wetlands and buffer zone areas. The aerial images, combined with the Coalition’s review of compliance with these protections, revealed significant violations of the Wetlands Protection Act.
The Mattapoisett Conservation Commission took prompt action and requested that the homeowner meet to resolve the matter. However, after months of negotiations with the Commission, the homeowner withdrew, leaving the Commission with no choice but to issue an enforcement order to compel compliance with the law. Refusing to restore the property, the homeowner sued the Commission in court.
The Coalition, together with 12 citizens from Mattapoisett, intervened in that lawsuit to help defend the Commission’s decision. The court ruled against the homeowner, affirming the Commission’s valid enforcement order. Still refusing to comply, the homeowner appealed the Superior Court’s decision to the Appeals Court, which issued a decisive victory, again, to the Commission. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court refused to hear the homeowner’s case.
“We are proud to be partnering with Mattapoisett to insist that this illegally filled wetlands be restored,” said Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “This work is central to our mission to protect and restore the Bay and the lands that surround it. We will continue to look out for the health of the Bay in every community and we will take action to protect it.”