Owner and Builder of Palmer Race Track to Pay $250,000 for Damaging Protected Wetlands, Wildlife Habitats
Under Settlement, More Than 300 Acres of Track Site Land to be Permanently Conserved, and State to Receive Title to 200 Acres of Land as Mitigation for Irreparable Damage to Wetlands
BOSTON — The owner and the builder of a sports car race track in Palmer will each pay $125,000 to settle allegations that during construction they irreparably destroyed or damaged wetland resources, altered or destroyed breeding habitats for protected species, and violated the terms of permits issued for the project, Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office announced today.
The owner will also grant to the Department of Fish and Game permanent conservation restrictions on 309 acres of land surrounding the track to protect the natural resources that remain there, and will restore those areas at the project site that were not irreparably damaged.
According to the complaint and consent judgment filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, Palmer Motorsports Park, LLC and J. Read Corp., will also each pay $100,000 to acquire approximately 200 acres of additional land bordering the project site. The land will be given to the Commonwealth for conservation as wildlife habitat and open space.
The consent judgment settles a lawsuit brought by the AG’s Office against the owner and builder of the race track for allegedly violating the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, the Clean Waters Act, the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, and associated regulations during construction of the race track facility.
“Palmer Motorsports and J. Read showed complete disregard for our environmental laws and regulations when they constructed this race track in a manner that destroyed some of our wetland and habitat resources and damaged others,” said AG Healey. “These are serious violations and our office will work to ensure that the laws put in place to protect our environment and the public are enforced.”
“This substantial settlement reflects the significance of the environmental violations at the site and sends a message to others who may seek to violate the Wetlands Protection Act and the Clean Water Act,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “These companies are required to restore all of the repairable wetland areas altered without a permit and to donate or restrict an additional 500 acres of land for conservation purposes. This agreement also guards against future wetland destruction in the area.”
“It is regrettable that such egregious violations of our environmental laws occurred, but we would like to thank the Attorney General and her staff for their aggressive enforcement action and for working closely with the Division’s staff to craft a consent judgment that reflects the serious nature of the violation,” said Jack Buckley, Director, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
The project site is about 480 acres and is located off of West Ware Road in Palmer. According to the complaint, the site was originally characterized by steep and rocky wooded hillsides and had several protected wetland resource areas and breeding habitats for the Blue Spotted Salamander and the Orange Sallow Moth, including vernal pools.
The AG’s Office alleges in the complaint that the owner, the builder and the builder’s subcontractors destroyed some of these protected resource areas and breeding habitats during site excavation and discharged fill into protected areas on the site that are under the jurisdiction of the state and the federal government without proper notice and permitting. Some of the vernal pools on the site were completely destroyed by the construction of the 2.3-mile race track and amenities around it, as were other wetland areas.
According to the complaint, the AG’s Office alleges that the builder and its subcontractor engaged in or allowed extensive blasting on the site that damaged wetland and habitat areas. The complaint also alleges that the owner, the builder and the builder’s subcontractors repeatedly violated the permits they were granted for construction of the project.
As part of the consent judgment, Palmer Motorsports Park, LLC and J Read Corp. will implement a comprehensive plan to restore some of the damage done to the wetland resources and habitat when they cut down trees within conserved wetlands, drove heavy machinery outside the allowable area and filled streams at unpermitted locations to avoid the construction of more costly bridges that had been approved on the project plans.
This case has been handled by Assistant Attorney General Fred Augenstern of Attorney General Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from the following Commonwealth staff: For the Department of Environmental Protection’s Western Regional Office – Brian Harrington, Deputy Regional Director; Jane Rothchild, Chief Legal Counsel, Office of General Counsel; David Foulis, Environmental Analyst, Bureau of Water Resources, Wetlands and Waterways Program; and Robert McCollum, formerly Wetlands and Waterways Program Chief. For the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife – Misty-Anne Marold, Senior Endangered Species Review Biologist of the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (“NHESP”); Craig MacDonnell, Chief of Wildlife Lands; Jack Buckley, Director; Tom French, Assistant Director for NHESP; and Beverly Vucson, Assistant General Counsel of the Department of Fish and Game.