By now, the Lake Road/ Sand Pit matter, seemingly settled when the Congamond Lakes Environmental Protection Organization (CLEPO) won its lawsuit in 2015, but that was not to be. Much has happened since then: The road was rebuilt in a new location but became problematic, sand pit activity is ongoing, and two new, separate lawsuits are in process, with a total of six litigants.
The initial, eastern segment of Lake Road, substantially widened and repaired, has required relatively few subsequent repairs. Troublesome flooding on the longer section, which now passes through the low, previously mined region south of the earlier road, was reduced by drainage improvements in November, but that segment has not survived the winter very well. Rework in early January repaired some new potholes, but the road seems still in a development stage.
One surprising observation has been the number of nails showing up in car tires. Reportedly, a curious resident walked along the road examining the surface and collected numerous shards of copper and steel. It turns out that processed aggregate, the road material, is processed by crushing concrete and other debris, and iron is removed by magnets. It would seem that the magnetic “sifting” was inadequate for this batch.
The sand pit mining operation has continued into the winter, and close neighbors have been annoyed by the considerable noise and vibration. A major sand shipment effort has not begun, but piles of separated material are accumulating as overburden is removed.
The CLEPO vs. Paul Pellerin lawsuit, which was incorrectly reported as an appeal in the Observer’s December/January issue, started with CLEPO’s October 17 complaint that Pellerin had never paid his agreed-upon share of the cost of CLEPO’s original, briefly-won, lawsuit. CLEPO reports they have paid some $45,000 already and about $10,000 is still outstanding. They claim damages and assert “on information and belief,” that Pellerin had received “valuable consideration” to settle the lawsuit. CLEPO then goes on to say the organization is entitled to recover the money it paid and the funds Pellerin received.
Defendant Pellerin’s response came in a December 15 motion to dismiss Plaintiff CLEPO’s suit. The response claims principally that, as CLEPO’s original lawsuit had been settled, CLEPO now had no legal standing in the matter, so they had no basis to complain. On January 12, CLEPO’s lawyer issued his answering memorandum, opposing Pellerin’s motion to dismiss. The memo says this is an entirely new lawsuit, for which CLEPO did indeed have standing to sue, based on the contractual understanding between CLEPO and Pellerin, not on CLEPO’s standing, or lack thereof, in the original case. At press time no court date has been set.
In the last week of October, a new lawsuit began, with some new participants, but not including CLEPO. Local landowner William Wilson sued the Town of Suffield, the Board of Selectmen, present sand pit owner BGR Materials, and even Lake Road Materials (Frank Bauchiero and Scott Guilmartin). They had bought the sand pit property last January, plus several smaller parcels, for a total of $200,000 and later sold the parcels to BGR for $1,500,000 in August, after CLEPO’s 2015 success had evaporated and the court gave Lake Road Materials the go-ahead.
New litigant Wilson’s October 20 complaint concerned what had been done to the first segment of Lake Road to accommodate the combined resident and sand pit traffic. He said the tree removal and road widening had adversely affected the future development of his 7.3-acre pumpkin patch parcel between the first segment of Lake Road and Griffin Road. He asked for damages of no more than $15,000, injunctive relief, and “Such other relief as this Court deems just and proper.”
What Mr. Wilson had in mind for injunctive relief was made clear in his motion for a temporary restraining order, also dated October 21, asking for tree removal on Lake Road to cease, along with any and all excavations on Lake Road and any activities for removing or relocating Lake Road. (By then there were no trees left on Lake Road, sand pit excavations were under way, but at some distance from the road, and work on relocating the western portion of the road was essentially complete.)
Defendant Lake Road Materials, the previous sand pit owner, objected to the request on October 16, and Town Attorney Derek Donnelly did the same the next day for the Town and the Selectmen. At press time, present owner BGR hadn’t been heard from, and the only scheduled court action was a telephone conference scheduled for January 26.