Court upholds Conservation Commission in wetlands dispute

May 4, 2018

A Mattapoisett man must restore wetlands on his property after the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled in favor of the enforcement order on May 1.

In 2015, Daniel Craig, of Seabreeze Lane, filled a half-acre of wetlands on his property and transformed it into a residential lawn. The Buzzards Bay Coalition noticed Google Earth images showing new filled lawn and garden structures in areas previously shown as wetlands, or wetland buffers on Craig's property. 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 and timeline for these unauthorized alterations.

When Seabreeze Lane was originally developed in 2000, representativs the Buzzards Bay Coalition said, specific protections were placed on the property to mitigate construction impacts on the water quality and habitats surrounding the pond. The aerial images, combined with the Coalition’s review of compliance with these protections, revealed that significant state wetlands protection act violations had occurred.

Coalition members promptly alerted Mattapoisett's Conservation Commission of a violation of the state wetlands protection act along Eel Pond.

The Conservation Commission took prompt action and requested that Craig fix the problem. However, according to the Buzzards Bay Coalition, after nearly a year of negotiations with the Conservation Commission, Craig refused to discuss the matter any longer, and the Conservation Commission served him an enforcement order to return the altered areas to wetlands.

Craig refused, and sued the Conservation Commission. The Buzzards Bay 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 enforcement order. Craig did not accept the decision, choosing to appeal the Superior Court's finding to the Appeals Court.

As of May 1, the Appeals Court also judged in favor of the Conservation Commission, the homeowner appealed the Superior Court’s decision to the Appeals Court, which ordered Craig to restore the property.

"[The Buzzards Bay Coalition] is extremely grateful to the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission for not allowing that kind of violation to stand here,” said Buzzards Bay Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “We will continue to track wetlands violations across the Buzzards Bay region and work with local commissions to ensure that the law is enforced.”