Settlement reached in Mt. Tom quarry dispute

  • Matthew Donohue, co-owner of Mt. Tom Companies, stands inside the quarry at Mount Tom in July 2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Entrance to the quarry at Mount Tom seen in July 2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/13/2022 8:20:45 PM
Modified: 6/13/2022 8:18:28 PM

HOLYOKE — The state has reached a settlement with the company that owns the Mount Tom quarry, which it proposed filling with soils unearthed during regional construction projects.

For over a year, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation has been in a dispute with Mt. Tom Companies over its proposal to create a “clean fill” site — decried by opponents as a “dump” — in the quarry.

DCR had notified the company in late 2020 that it was exercising its right to acquire the quarry land for public use under a provision included in a 2002 purchase agreement it signed to buy over 144 acres of the company’s former Mount Tom Ski Area. But Mt. Tom Companies filed for bankruptcy several months later in an attempt to get a federal bankruptcy judge to void that option because it was never recorded in the Registry of Deeds. The state had argued that the option is valid and not an issue for bankruptcy court.

In a court filing submitted late last month, Mt. Tom Companies filed a motion to dismiss the bankruptcy case, saying that, after months of negotiations, the state and the company had reached a settlement agreement. The parties will appear before a judge for a hearing on that motion to dismiss Friday at 11 a.m.

Little can be gleaned from court documents about the details of the settlement agreement.

A spokesperson for DCR declined to comment on details of the settlement because the litigation is still pending before the court.

“I’m not allowed to comment on it,” Matthew Donohue, the co-owner of Mt. Tom Companies along with fellow Holyoke resident Timothy Kennedy, said Monday.

Mt. Tom Companies also owes the city of Holyoke $327,263 in back taxes as well as $93,336 in loans to Site Reclamation LLC — another company owned by Donohue and Kennedy. The company’s court filing states that the city of Holyoke and Site Reclamation have also reached a resolution with Mt. Tom Companies and agree with the dismissal of the case.

Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia did not return a message left with his office Monday morning, nor did the city’s law department.

The terms of the settlement do stipulate that the agreement must be finalized prior to June 30, which is the end of the state’s fiscal year.

Digging stopped at the quarry in 2012, leaving a large crater with 200-foot-high stone walls on the mountain.

Donohue and Kennedy said they intended to fill the hole over two decades with soils tested for contaminants before being dumped at the site. Opponents, however, raised concerns over the possibility of contaminated soils being used to fill the quarry and the environmental impacts of trucking dirt up to the property, which the state said contains vernal pools as well as rare flora and fauna.

In 2020, DCR missed a deadline to make an offer on a separate property next to the quarry — owned by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke — that DCR had an option to acquire. DCR blamed the Holyoke City Council, which failed to act immediately on DCR’s request to waive a procedural notice requirement the agency must follow any time it buys property in a municipality.

Site Reclamation stepped in and was then able to buy the property, with an assessed value of nearly $1 million, for $100,000. Donohue has said that his company purchased the Boys & Girls Club property to ultimately gift to DCR in exchange for operating the quarry fill project — an idea he said MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program suggested.

It is unclear whether that adjoining property is part of the settlement agreement.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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