Brook Street, Plympton, residents, abutters to the Rocky Harvest LLC, met with selectmen on Thursday, Dec. 29, requesting an update on the status of the lawsuit between the town of Plympton and Rocky Harvest.
Selectmen had posted an executive session for Thursday, in order to discuss pending litigation and Donna Hanna and Jane Devlin, with other neighbors and abutters who have been affected by the continual tanker truck traffic, stopped by the Town House to meet with selectmen before their executive session.
The group has sought relief from the noise and dust generated by the heavy tanker truck traffic and asked selectmen and Town Counsel Ilana Quirk from Koppelman and Paige law firm what is the status of the lawsuit.
Donna Hanna told selectmen, “You said it would be about six months before the judge would make his decision – and that was about six months ago.”
Town Counsel Quirk responded that the ruling had been made and Judge Robert C. Cosgrove, Justice of the Superior Court, ruled against the town in a decision last July. Selectman Christine Joy told Devlin and Hanna she had emailed copies of the ruling months ago, but neither had received the judgment.
In his ruling, Justice Cosgrove stated that Rocky Harvest , LLC, is a “successor in interest” and is allowed to retain its water extraction business off Brook Street and benefit from a Chapter 61A tax classification that will give a greatly reduced tax assessment under farming status.
The Town of Plympton argued that because the original 249 acre parcel of land including fish farm and cranberry bogs has been split several times, leaving only an 11.927 acre lot with pump house for water extraction, that this use does not qualify as an “agricultural” use, and therefore should not be allowed a Chapter 61A tax classification. The judgment stated that even though the various parcels have different owners, the restriction against development maintains enough of a similar nature that the agricultural classification would be allowed.
In January 2010, Selectmen received verbal complaints from abutters claiming that Rocky Harvest was violating conditions 6 and 7 of the agreement for judgment that limited the hours of operation of the water extraction business to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Tanker truck traffic was prohibited on Sundays and ten Federal holidays.
Freitas letter allowing Sunday trucks upheld
Selectmen investigated the complaint and in doing so were made aware of a letter from then Selectman Joseph Freitas on Board of Selectmen letterhead stating Rocky Harvest could increase its hours of operation to include Sundays and holidays. Freitas did not obtain a vote of the Board of Selectmen or the consent of the Zoning Board of Appeals before sending the letter. Selectmen made Rocky Harvest aware that the letter was not supported by a vote of the board and was therefore not valid.
Count III of the March 19, 2014 Rocky Harvest answer and counterclaim against Plympton, asserts that Rocky Harvest is entitled to enforce the October 23, 2008 letter from Freitas, allowing tanker truck traffic seven days a week without limit.
Selectmen told the frustrated abutters that they might have to seek their own legal counsel to represent their interests, but that Plympton is still pursuing its remedies.