MassWildlife issues cease and desist order for unpermitted land clearing

WESTFIELD – At the end of the Conservation Commission’s meeting on Oct. 8, alleged illegal land clearing by Mark and Chris Dupuis on 0 East Mountain Road was discussed by the commissioners, joined by neighbors of the property who had waited through the meeting to speak up.
Conservation coordinator Karen Leigh said that the Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program of MassWildlife had issued a cease and desist order to Mark Dupuis on Oct. 4. Leigh said the city’s stormwater coordinator had also issued a non-compliance order.
The Oct. 4 letter from MassWildlife, obtained through a public information request, was addressed to Mark Dupuis of Mark and Chris Dupuis LLC, and concerned unpermitted land clearing, road construction and site clearing on approximately 63 acres at 0 East Mountain Road (Parcels 59R-2 and 59R-3) located east of East Mountain Road and south of Susan Drive.
The letter states that the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife had become aware of the unpermitted work located within the priority and estimated habitat of five state-listed species and five state-listed plant species, and ordered any ongoing work to cease immediately.
According to the letter, Mark Dupuis had initially been in touch with the agency in February, 2018 for information regarding state-listed species on the related, neighboring Parcel 59R-21, and the division provided him with information on the review and filing requirements of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) and the Wetlands Protection Act (WPA).
In March, 2018, Dupuis requested Priority Habitat Mapping Reconsideration by the Division, and was told that observational records supported the mapping.
In January, 2019, Dupuis sent in a MESA Project Review Checklist Application for the construction of an access road to facilitate maintenance of an FAA beacon on Parcel 59R-21.
The Division responded on February 6 requiring additional information to be submitted in order to continue its review of the proposed project pursuant to MESA. The Feb. 6 letter also stated that no work or other activities could be conducted anywhere on the site until the review had been completed.
As of the Oct. 4 letter, the Division had not received the additional information required.
When MassWildlife became aware of the unpermitted clearing and construction on what it assumed was parcel 59R-21, the portion of land referred to in the earlier correspondence, they issued a Notice of Non-Compliance with MESA associated with Parcel 59R-21 on Sept. 26.
Dupuis wrote back by email that same day and stated that no work had occurred on Parcel 59R-21. However, according to the letter, he failed to disclose that work had commenced on the adjoining Parcels 59R-2 and 59R-3.
On Sept. 30, 2019, the Division “documented” unpermitted land clearing, road construction and site development activities on Parcels 59R-2 and 59R-3, portions of which are visible from East Mountain Road and abutting properties, although it did not detail how it was documented.
“Although the full extent of disturbance is not yet known, the Division estimates that the Unpermitted Work has resulted in between 5 and 15 acres of forest clearing on the subject parcels. To date, the Division has no record of a MESA or WPA filing associated with the Unpermitted Work. Therefore, the Unpermitted Work constitutes a violation of the MESA,” stated the letter.
The Oct. 4 letter to Mark Dupuis also states that violations of MESA are subject to civil and criminal penalties, and may also constitute a violation of the WPA if any portion of the work occurred in wetland resource areas jurisdictional under the WPA.
“Any on-going work on any portion of Parcels 59R-2, 59R-3 or 59R-21 must cease immediately. No construction or additional land, soil or vegetation alteration activities may be conducted anywhere on the Property until the project is in compliance with the MESA and the WPA,” stated the order, which also said if Dupuis failed to contact the Division by October 11, 2019 and “implement any and all actions necessary to bring the project into compliance with MESA, the Division will take enforcement action, including but not limited to a referral of the matter to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.”
The letter was signed by Everose Schlüter, assistant director of MassWildlife, and copied to the Conservation Commission and the MassDEP Western Regional Office Wetlands Program.
Leigh said the office has received multiple complaints from residents about the work being done on the property, and the Conservation Commission has not been able to get on the property to confirm that the land has been cleared without permission. She said the Commission needs to see that wetlands are involved in order to have jurisdiction.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Richard Morini said his property abuts the Dupuis’, and he said they have destroyed wetlands, laid a pipe, put in a road, and taken down all of the trees. He said his wife Sherri Morini runs Creative Kids Daycare on his property, and the Dupuis’ piled stumps on the property line just feet away from the daycare.
Another neighbor on Susan Drive said the Dupuis’ start taking down trees at 5:30 a.m. She also said she hears shooting and automatic weapons firing all the time, which she said is “terrorizing’ the neighborhood.
“Unfortunately, we can’t get on the property,” said Conservation Commission Chair David A. Doe. He said Dupuis has until Oct. 11 to contact the state.
Morini offered to let Commission members onto his property line for a clear view of the work that has been done.
Both Doe and Leigh said there are no legal projects filed with the city associated with the property. Leigh also said if they can’t get on the land to see it, they may have to go through the Law Department.
After the meeting, Bryan Clauson, who moved onto an abutting property one year ago, said he was shocked at how fast the Dupuis’ were moving, and how much land they had cleared in the last four months. He said he had asked them if they had permits for the clearing, and they told him they had.
Clauson said he was told when he bought the land that it would be difficult to clear because of the endangered species in the area, including timber rattlesnakes, and he didn’t believe them.

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