The evening’s agenda wasn’t very long, yet one hearing was anything but leisurely. The ongoing struggle to get Leisure Shores Marina, owned by Robert Ringuette, into compliance with local and state wetlands regulations came before the commission again. A previous hearing included a list of various documents the commission requested so that they could ascertain whether or not Ringuette’s operation was working toward alignment with various waterway laws. This continuation failed to produce those documents.
Represented by attorney Shephard Johnson, the applicant submitted various pieces of documentation meant to assuage the commission’s concerns about noncompliant activities. However, those documents fell short of what had been requested, according to Chairman Peter Newton and the members of the commission.
The specific areas of concern remained those of boat washing, scraping, cleaning, and Styrofoam floats that are falling apart and fouling the surrounding protected wetlands. These same concerns have been the main cause of consternation between the town and Ringuette for many years. But those have not been the only issues raised again during the course of the hearing – there was the possibility of illegal filling in of wetlands and parking of vehicles and boats in marshlands.
The back and forth between Newton and Johnson at times became rather heated as Newton repeatedly reminded Johnson of documented disclosures the commission needed that would prove conclusively the marina operation was moving towards compliance. However, the documents the commission did receive were far from forthcoming in detail. One letter, from the engineer who had previously delineated the wetlands setting flags around the property, failed to denote any in-field data at each location. In the absence of such scientific information the commission found they didn’t have any actionable data to work with.
Chairman Newton told Johnson that boat-washing activities had not stopped at the marina and that waste water was allowed to enter the protected waterways. Johnson cited state law saying that the statute of limitations that the board could work within was three years and that clearly the town knew about the marina work for more than a decade. Newton conceded that the town has known about illegal work taking place at the site, but countered that numerous actions had been brought against his client to no avail.
Johnson kept circling back to the time limitations, while Newton with the commission members elected to bring in outside peer review to settle the matter of wetland delineations. Johnson said that he felt the commission was escalating the matters before them toward litigation. But Newton said the commission was only a part-time board with part-time staff, so that requesting peer review was logical to establish historical wetland delineations.
“We asked at the last meeting for more information on the soil testing and wetlands encroachment that has occurred over time,” Newton said. “This project is very complex … the project would be best served by an outside consultant … we have a right to vote for an outside consultant.”
Bob Rogers of the commission offered to visit the marina and witness for himself and the benefit of the board members the conditions from his purview, “It’s the unpermitted activities that need to be addressed,” he told Johnson. Rogers was willing to help list all the areas of concern, but Newton felt the commission had done that on more than one occasion. “I’ve been to the site twice and [Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold] has been there three times.”
Both sides felt frustrated with the lack of forward movement during the course of the evening’s hearing. The commission voted to have the town’s agent pursue quotes for outside peer review of the marina, contingent upon the applicant’s willingness to pay for the services. “Let’s get everything on the table and resolve these issues once and for all,” Newton said. “Let’s get this marina up to snuff.”
From the audience, the commission heard from Korrin Petersen, senior attorney for the Buzzards Bay Coalition. She stated for the record, “The Buzzards Bay Coalition applauds the efforts of the commission in their efforts to secure remediation of the wetlands.”
The hearing was continued until November 25.
Other matters handled by the commission were a continuation of Mattapoisett Shores Association request for permission to move forward with beach nourishment into perpetuity. Newton and the commission members were uncomfortable committing the town and future commission members to such long-range agreements in the absence of a plan for storm-water runoff and erosion. The issue of runoff and erosion had been brought to the applicants by their engineer Walter Galuska of Tibbetts Engineering. Galuska said that he brought those issues to the association, but they would be unable to act on anything until their first meeting in June of 2014. A compromise was reached after some discussion. The commission will allow one beach nourishment and the association will need to come back with a plan to address erosion and runoff before additional nourishments can be allowed.
A certificate of compliance was issued to Fadi Heneine of 65 Fairhaven Rd. Agent Leidhold gave her brief report, which included an update on Good Speed Island. She told the commission that the DEP is in the settlement stages at this point in time.
The next Conservation Commission meeting is scheduled for November 25 at 6:30 pm.
By Marilou Newell