North Scituate Condo Development Continues to Ignore the Law
December 16, 2021
NORTH SCITUATE, R.I. — The developers of the controversial McIntosh Hill Estates, formerly called the Chopmist Hill Estates, project were fined again last month by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
Property owner John Pereira and contractor John Mahoney altered freshwater wetlands, discharged pollutants into a nearby tributary to the Scituate Reservoir, and failed to install proper sediment and erosion controls, according to the Nov. 16 notice of violation. The pair face $42,750 in penalties.
It is not the first time the 18-unit condominium development on Chopmist Hill Road has run afoul of state authorities. Mahoney was cited and fine $3,000 in late July 2020 for excavating an access road, refusing to install soil and sediment control measures, and generally ignoring the terms of his then-expired stormwater discharge permit.
After being issued the fine, Mahoney, a former president of the Scituate Town Council, said, “I’d never, ever, ever pay that.” The $3,000 fine remains unpaid.
A month earlier, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation had issued a cease-and-desist order to Mahoney for clearing an access road without a permit.
Mahoney was issued a new stormwater discharge permit in September 2020, but continued to defy state regulators. A November inspection by DEM showed 90 percent of the site had been cleared of vegetation. An inspection by the Environmental Protection Agency showed Mahoney had failed to keep inspection and maintenance records of the site’s erosion controls.
“Over the course of the last year we’ve had 13 runoff events … where a thick mud is going into the ecosystem here,” said John Patrie, a neighbor of the development that first riled local residents nearly five years ago.
On the 6.7-acre McIntosh Hill Estates property there used to be a small tributary stream that fed directly into the Scituate Reservoir. While some neighbors say they haven’t seen the stream since construction started, stormwater runoff still broadly follows its path to the reservoir. This past January, the Providence Water Supply Board inspected the site, finding high levels of turbid sediment-laden stormwater discharging from the property.
Mahoney submitted a new sediment control plan this past spring, which was quickly approved by DEM, but additional inspections showed the plan was not being executed. On Aug. 18, Mahoney denied inspectors entry onto the property, according to DEM. Instead, the agency received reports of inspections performed by Joseph McCue, a consultant hired by Mahoney.
Seventy-five residents who live on or near Chopmist Hill Road signed a petition opposing the project in 2017. Residents remain concerned about runoff and the impact an influx of new residents will have on local water supplies.
“There are times we are very conservative with our water use because it has gone dry in the past,” said Joe Paliotti, who lives on nearby Cooke Drive.
Despite living less than 2 miles from the Scituate Reservoir, local residents actually source their water from a separate aquifer using private wells. The proposed McIntosh Hill Estates condominiums would source their water from the same aquifer using three wells installed on-site. Residents are concerned those additional wells could overtax an already-stressed aquifer.
“If you don’t have water, you don’t have a house,” Paliotti said.
Editor’s note: Mahoney declined to comment for this story, after calling ecoRI News names and asking the reporter if FO meant anything to him.
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How is the state allowing this work to continue? A cease and desist, $40k in fines, yet work continues? This is where DEM fails us. Why are we hiring Environmental Police Officers left and right (5 hires within the two years!), but no arrests on these blatant and egregious activities?
This is one ugly development… on top of everything else, it does not fit into it’s rural setting or feel like it belongs there in any way. It is a land use anomaly and i feel so bad for the residents who live nearby. The buildings are so large and commercial looking, they dominate the landscape and make it obvious that the intent here was just to cram in as many units as possible. The incompentance of the designers and greed of developer is palpable at first glance from the road. Its a shame this was permitted to be built. How could a project like this be allowed to continue when the contractors refuse to follow the stormwater and erosion control plans?! other projects would be shut down for this and fined by the day. Every other contractor has to fill out the stormwater logs and follow the rules. What’s the point of having rules if anyone can decide not to follow them and get away with it. Where’s the enforcement here? Shame.
QUESTION: Have the any of the local State legislators intervened to help? Check their donors. See if they are working in the best interest of their constituents.
What about DEM can’t they get the AG to intervene if the fines have gone unpaid and the work continues? Are we becoming a lawless nation with no accountability?
Is the Conservation Law Foundation aware, RI Nature Conservancy…any organization with a budget to fund legal action?
Vintage John Mahoney. His politics? He headed "The Independent Men" when he led the Town Council for two years. Voters quickly saw the light and sent him and his friends packing. The police station fiasco is his legacy. Nothing in this story should be a surprise.
It seems to me that the only way to get their attention is to either get an injunction to cease work or to levy a stiff daily fine. Anything else just plays into their hands and they continue to do as they please.
Time to play hardball.
The Scituate Building Department as well as multiple council members are corrupt and tried to sweep this under the rug. They failed like they always do.