Frustrated at being blocked by shoreline property owners on the lake, local conservation officials pledged this week to pursue legal remedies to end what they see as a ‘gross violation’ of wetland protections on Ridge Road.
Conservation Officer Jane Pierce said the city received reports last summer of clearing activities at 20 Ridge Road, on the shore of the Neponset Reservoir. A follow-up visit to the site by commission member Richard Golemme led to several efforts to contact the owner – the last by certified mail – with no response.
“I’ve never heard of them,” Pierce said.
Then, on Monday this week, an anonymous report of work in progress at the site prompted a second visit under police escort. According to Pierce, she, Golemma and fellow commissioner Rebecca Kelly were standing outside the front door ringing the doorbell when a woman pulled into the driveway, pressed the opener garage door, then walked inside with the door closing behind her.
“So we rang the bell a few more times – and nothing,” Pierce reported.
According to records from the City Assessor’s Office, the property is owned by Kenneth Nicholls and Debra Marra. The single-family home, built in 1974 on 0.92 acres, is valued at $677,400.
Based on later observations made from a nearby plot on Monday afternoon, Pierce said the activities involved digging up silted areas near the shore by hand and removing the soil with a wheelbarrow.
Low water levels in the reservoir resulting from drought conditions this summer have exposed previously submerged areas and made such work possible, she added.
“We rely on people to tell us about things like this because it’s a gross violation,” Pierce said.
More than simply issuing a cease and desist order, commission members made it clear that they would seek an enforcement order requiring the restoration of any disturbed areas.
“He just ignores us and hopes we leave,” commission chairman Robert Boette said.
“I think it’s time for us to consult a lawyer and, if necessary, go to Superior Court.”
At that point, says Pierce, “you don’t give them permission to do the work, you tell them they have to restore it. There is no appeal. »
Additionally, Golemma recommended that any soil removed from the lake bed and now piled on higher ground be tested and then capped to prevent any heavy items from reentering the water in a free-form state.
“He dug that hole pretty deep,” Golemme said. “I guess he’s trying to get a boat in from his land – that’s the only reason you’re hitting on him.”
Golemme also expressed concern about the jersey barriers that have been moved to the back of the property, near the shore.
Boette asked Pierce to brief City Manager William Keegan on the unfolding scenario, as well as Deputy Manager Michael Johns and Paige Duncan, the city’s director of land use and economic development.
“Keep everyone in the chain,” Boette said. “So they won’t be surprised when we ask the town attorney for help.”