The Plympton Board of Selectmen met virtually Monday, Feb. 27.
The meeting began with a public hearing regarding an earth removal permit application from SLT Construction Corp. for activities at Spring Street. The land in question is approximately 23 acres. The permit would allow for earth removal work as well as construction of a facility to process construction materials and recycle concrete, asphalt, brick, and stumps. Alex Weisheit was on hand as the Town’s Counsel.
Selectman Mark Russo went over the ground rules for the hearing including that arguments between parties would not be tolerated. They began by hearing from the applicant first. Peter Opachinski spoke on behalf of SLT Construction which he said was owned by himself and his brother Mike. Opachinski said that the land was originally taken over by Mass DOT for construction of Route 44. He said the land was deemed surplus to Mass DOT and went out to public bid in 2017 when SLT submitted the highest bid. He said that during 2017 and 2018, McKenzie Engineering designed a subdivision on the Carver side. He said that he believes that people that are opposed to the project think it is merely a rouse to remove earth. Opachinski said that that was “far from it.” He said that there were no substantiated complaints regarding damage to the wetlands. “The main reason for the earth removal permit is to simply level the land and get it leveled out so we can setup what we are considering to be a recycling facility,” Opachinski explained. “There really are no abutters to the site; so I think it’s a great location for an industrial type business to go in eventually,” he added.
According to Opachinski’s presentation, they only intend to excavate roughly 6 of the 23 acres. He said they are looking to remove 50 truckloads per day and noted that the trucks would not be traveling on any Plympton roads. He said the best estimate is that the work would be completed in eight months. He also said the closest house to the location is in Kingston. He said they keep an 8,000-gallon water truck on the site at all times to keep dust to a minimum. He further said that a sprinkler system would be installed as well. “Overall, the water truck has been pretty effective,” he said. He did acknowledge they have had a few issues with ATV and dirt bike riders trespassing.
Selectman John Traynor said his biggest concern was with environmental protection. “What groundwater protection district are you in – this project?” Selectman Christine Joy asked. Opachinski said he was unsure. “There would be no intention to ever have this be for sewage disposal?” Joy verified. Opachinski said “absolutely not.” Following the Selectmen’s remarks, Russo opened the discussion to anyone that wished to speak in favor of the project. One resident spoke up saying that he personally knows the family and they are honest and trustworthy. Another resident said that he is a subcontractor for SLT as well as the Vice Chairman of the Conservation Commission in Carver. He said that the project “doesn’t affect anything in Plympton.” “In the four years that I’ve worked with the Opachinskis, I’ve never seen them not do what they say they are going to,” he continued. A general contractor with SLT also spoke up in favor of the company and the project.
Dawn Egan, a principal at American Electrical Construction, said she purchased a 4-acre lot from the Opachinskis to use as their headquarters. She said that she grew up in Plympton and currently lives in Carver. “I believe in business and responsible growth and working with Peter Opachinski has been just that,” Egan said.
Russo said that they would next be hearing from those opposed to the project. Russo said that they received a number of letters in opposition to the project that he would read portions of in order to ensure that those residents’ voices were also heard. One letter stated that there was concern that SLT had already encroached upon the stated area on the earth removal permit. Among the allegations in the letters was that SLT has already encroached upon the wetlands and that they have created dustbowls so severe, residents are unable to open their windows. The destruction of land, the environmental impact, and noise complaints were all cited in the opposition letters.
Meg Sheehan with the Community Land and Water Coalition said that their position is that they would like to see the permit denied. She said that a world-renowned hydrologist who is currently working at Harvard, issued a report saying there is a potential risk to the drinking water supply. She showed videos showing emissions of sand to Ricketts Pond as well as into people’s backyards. Sheehan also told those assembled that they believe the permit is incomplete and that there were multiple violations. Her presentation further said that operating a “recycling facility” is not covered in the MEPA Certificate.
The Chair of Carver Concerned Citizens spoke out against the project. “We ask you to look to the future in not only your town residents but the residents of Carver, Kingston, and other surrounding towns; once you allow this in, you’ll have it there forever,” he said. Plympton resident Howard Randall spoke up saying he has lived with this issue for nearly fifty years. He also acknowledged that he knows Opachinski well. He referred to the site as a “wasteland.” He asked Opachinski if he couldn’t think of something better than a recycling center to bring to what he described as a “sensitive area.” Another resident spoke about the “noise pollution” calling it “off the charts.” She also warned about potential toxins. “I believe there to be a vernal pool there with Ricketts Pond being there… there’s endangered wildlife that live there,” she said. Still another resident asked if there would be any further testing of the groundwater. Someone else asked the Selectmen to delay voting on the issue until more information could be ascertained.
“I think the permit has to be denied because in the bylaws, this isn’t an allowed use in a groundwater protection district,” Joy said during the deliberation portion of the meeting following the hearing. Joy said that the facility is not an allowable end use and therefore, it didn’t make sense to grant permission for the earth removal permit. Traynor said he had read Sheehan’s 15-page document as well as other exhibits. “I’m not sure that we should allow a permit, but I think we need a lot more expert knowledge of exactly what’s going to happen there – if the water table is going to be affected, absolutely… if it’s going to affect the wetlands, if they’ve overstepped, another reason it should be declined but I would like to get a lot more answers before I say yay or no,” he said. Russo said if they are going to deny the application, they would have to bring forth a really strong case. Russo said that the Selectmen should authorize Town Administrator Liz Dennehy to work with Town Counsel to identify the experts needed and that they should come at the expense of Opachinski. The Selectmen agreed to continue the public hearing to March 27. They also voted to move forward with seeking necessary experts including a hydrologist.
Following the hearing and deliberation, Selectmen dealt with business as usual. They shared that during Executive Session they agreed to a contract with the Town Administrator for three more years. They also appointed Jeffrey Montello to the Board of Registrars for a term ending on March 31, 2026. Russo told the Selectmen that the seller signed the purchase and sale for Turkey Swamp and that the closing will be April 18. “We are so much closer to having 300 undisturbed acres protected and conserved in perpetuity,” Russo said.
Joy said that her rave for the evening was for “all the people who showed up tonight.” She called it a “complex issue” and said that the goal of the Board is transparency.
Russo said, “I totally agree with everything Christine said.” He said his rave was for the fact that it was an “orderly meeting.” He said he appreciated the “patience and forbearance of everyone.” Traynor said his rant was for the weather since it might delay a speaker that is coming to the town to address trash.