- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for Brookline Man and His Companies Sued for Abandoning Protected Farmland in Sandwich
Boston — A Brookline man and his two real estate companies have been sued for allegedly abandoning protected agricultural land in Sandwich and allowing trespassers to vandalize the property known as Windstar Farm for 16 years, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The complaint, filed Wednesday in Suffolk County Superior Court, alleges that Amit Kanodia, a Brookline resident who controls SNK Corp. and Washington Street LP, the entity listed as the property’s owner, violated the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) that protects the 223-acre property by failing to maintain and preserve the property as an agricultural resource.
In 1982, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) paid $990,000 to acquire an APR for Windstar Farm, prohibiting activities inconsistent with the property’s agricultural purpose and barring any actions harmful to water and soil conservation. Under the APR, the defendants – who are paid in exchange for a permanent deed restriction to maintain agricultural viability – are required to keep Windstar Farm in a condition suitable for active farming use to protect natural resources, benefit farmers, and boost the state’s agricultural industry and economy.
“These defendants had an obligation to maintain Windstar Farm as a vital agricultural resource for Massachusetts but instead effectively abandoned the land for years,” said AG Healey. “Nearly one million dollars of taxpayer money was used to protect this property so that it could be used for farming for generations to come. We need to restore Windstar Farm, and hold its operators accountable, so it once again can be available as productive agricultural land and Massachusetts taxpayers can get the benefit of their investment.”
The AG’s lawsuit alleges that the defendants did not secure or properly oversee Windstar Farm responsibly, allowing trespassers to vandalize and degrade the property by setting fires, dumping trash and debris, and riding motor vehicles and dirt bikes on it. As a result of the defendants’ alleged violations of the APR, Windstar Farms is currently not suitable for agricultural use.
“The protection of farmland is critical to ensuring the long-term viability of the Commonwealth’s agricultural industry, and the voluntary participation in Massachusetts’ first-in-the-nation Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program helps keep the state’s agricultural economy strong and viable, and allows farmers an alternative to developing prime farmland,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “Through this lawsuit, the Commonwealth will continue to ensure that taxpayer resources used for the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program are utilized in a manner which both preserves valuable farmland across the state, and promotes the continued success of Massachusetts’ vibrant agriculture community.”
At the time the APR was put in place, Windstar Farm had productive soils and for years had operated a successful large-scale fruit and vegetable farm. The complaint alleges that the defendants abandoned the property and left it unsecured, and as a result, actions by trespassers have eroded and damaged the soil and destroyed Windstar Farm’s irrigation system. The defendants’ extended neglect of Windstar Farm has left the land overgrown with weeds, brush, and invasive plants, while barns and other structures on the property have fallen into disrepair.
MDAR has attempted for years to work with the defendants to bring the property back into compliance with its APR. The AG’s complaint seeks a court order that would require the defendants to develop and implement a restoration and security plan for Windstar Farm and to maintain the property as suitable for agricultural use in the future. The AG’s Office is coordinating with DAR on this case as part of an increased enforcement effort to protect Massachusetts agricultural resources through greater compliance with APRs throughout the state.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Jessica Shaffer, of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, and Assistant Attorney General Christophe Courchesne, Chief of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Michelle Bodian, Legal Counsel for MDAR.