For Immediate Release - May 10, 2012

Lexington Man Found in Contempt For Failing to Restore Damaged Wetlands

After Ordered to Jail, Defendant Agrees to Allow Restoration Work to Proceed

BOSTON –After continually failing to restore damaged wetlands on his property as ordered by the court in February 2010, a Lexington man was held in contempt and sent to jail before finally agreeing to allow the work to proceed, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

On Monday, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Elizabeth M. Fahey found John Sellars,78, in contempt of court and ordered him held in custody until he allowed restoration work to proceed or until the work was completed. On Wednesday, Sellars agreed to comply with the Court’s order and was released to stay with family in Florida while the work is completed.

“This defendant directly violated a court order to restore wetlands, which are a vital environmental resource,” said AG Coakley. “The court has given him many chances to restore these wetlands and time and again he has refused to comply. Ignoring the court’s orders is not an option as this case demonstrates.”

In February 2010, AG Coakley’s Office obtained a judgment in Suffolk Superior Court ordering Sellars and his wife, Diane Sellars, to place $90,000 in escrow to pay for the restoration of the wetlands they destroyed. The judgment also ordered the couple to pay $100,000 in penalties, $75,000 of which was suspended pending completion of the restoration. 

The February 2010 decision came after a June 24, 2009 ruling that determined the Sellars were liable under the Wetlands Protection Act for the destruction of wetlands at 430 Concord Ave., Lexington, and on adjacent public conservation land, also in Lexington, since at least the early 1990s, as well as for violations of the Solid Waste Management Act. The AG’s Office filed the original complaint in the case on May 25, 2007 shortly after the Lexington Conservation Commission referred the matter to MassDEP in September 2006.

According to the court’s 2010 decision, the couple altered, graded, and filled wetlands with concrete rubble, trees, and other material despite repeated orders from the Lexington Conservation Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to restore the wetlands. The couple also received deliveries of parking lot sweepings, construction rubble, and other materials at their Lexington property for use as fill in their loam-making business without authorization under the Solid Waste Management Act.

In its decision, the court stated fashioning a remedy that restores the wetlands was its most important consideration and priority.

The Wetlands Protection Act is designed to prevent damage to the Commonwealth’s wetlands, which provide numerous benefits including flood control, storm damage prevention, pollution prevention, shellfish and fisheries protection, and wildlife habitat protection.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Louis Dundin and Betsy Harper of AG Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division and Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer of AG Coakley’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force.

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