Marion Golf Club takes legal action over enforcement order

Aug 11, 2022

MARION — The Marion Golf Club is taking the Marion Conservation Commission to court over an enforcement order that the golf club calls “invalid.”

On Monday, Aug. 8, the Marion Golf Club filed a civil lawsuit against the Marion Conservation Commission in Plymouth Superior Court. 

In the filing, the Marion Golf Club is appealing a June 9 enforcement order that called for the club to restore and reflag protected wetland that was damaged on the property. 

According to Shaun Walsh, who was chair of the Marion Conservation Commission when the enforcement order was given, the Marion Golf Club used “heavy machinery” to clearcut undergrowth in protected wetland areas located in forested patches between North and West drives. 

The club was working on an approved forestry project when it cut into wetlands vegetation and flags marking the wetland areas were removed as a result of the work, said the commission.

The enforcement order, which was passed unanimously by the commission during its June 8 meeting, was issued on June 9 and required that Marion Golf Club file a plan to restore native vegetation by June 23 and reflag wetland areas by June 19. 

A restoration plan submitted in response to the enforcement order was rejected by the commission during a July 13 meeting.

The club is seeking to have the enforcement order declared null and void by the court. 

The Town of Marion has no comment at this time. The Marion Golf Club did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

According to the filing, the Conservation Commission’s enforcement order does not name the correct property owner, which the club says is the Marion Harbor East Trust. The enforcement order states that the Marion Golf Club is the course’s property owner, which the club disputes.

The filing says that the Marion Conservation Commission violated the club’s fourth amendment right to protection from unlawful search and seizure when members reportedly toured the facility unannounced.

According to the filing, “[Marion Conservation Commission’s] individual members violated Marion Golf Club’s (and the Marion Harbor East Trust’s) reasonable expectation of privacy by conducting unannounced administrative searches on the Property and used purported evidence from these unlawful searches as the basis of its Enforcement Order.” 

The club also alleges that the Marion Conservation Commission violated the 14th amendment rights of the club by “depriving it access to the right to a fair hearing before the [Marion Conservation Commission] arbitrarily and capriciously issued its Enforcement Order.”

The club points to guidance from the Massachusetts DEP Wetlands Enforcement Manual for how the commission should have moved forward with the enforcement order.

The manual suggests that conservation commissions should, “Allow the alleged violator(s) an opportunity to be heard before the Enforcement Order is ratified by formal vote of the commission.”

No representatives of the Marion Golf Club were present at the June 8 meeting when the Marion Conservation Commission voted to issue the enforcement order. 

The club claims that the enforcement order has caused damage to the plaintiff’s “reputation in the locality,” and “ability to operate its business.”

No court date has been set. Aside from the initial filing, no further action has been taken by any involved party.