WELLFLEET — The Great White Realty Group LLC closed on the purchase of the 1.38-acre lot at the corner of Route 6 and Old Wharf Road on Friday, Jan. 8. On Jan. 9, tree-cutting and excavation work began on the wooded parcel.
Donna DiGiovanni of Truro is both the resident agent and manager of Great White Realty. On Jan. 14, Wellfleet Building Inspector Paul Fowler issued a cease and desist order to the new owner for violating two town ordinances: sections 8.2 and 5.3.3 of the zoning bylaw.
Section 8.2 is about permit requirements. “No building shall be built, altered or moved and no use of land or building shall be begun or changed without a permit having been issued,” the bylaw states.
“That was a lot that was heavily wooded at 2:30 in the afternoon on a Friday,” said Gerald Parent, chair of the Wellfleet Planning Board. “And it was stripped of almost every tree by 4 o’clock on Saturday.”
The total clearing effort, which zoning board of appeals chair Sharon Inger called “really striking, and really sudden,” was remarkably efficient. One problem: it was also distinctly unpermitted. Given the extent of the clearing, DiGiovanni needed, at the very least, to apply for a clearing permit from the building dept. before beginning work, said Inger. She did not. The clear-cutting also extended all the way to the lot line, said Parent, ignoring Wellfleet’s requirements for frontage preservation.
When Fowler visited 1065 State Highway (which Parent said happened on Monday, Jan. 11, though Fowler would not confirm that date), he found that DiGiovanni had not only cleared the property but had also begun bringing in and moving fill. Fowler said that violated zoning bylaw section 5.3.3, which prohibits open bulk storage — “exposed outside storage of sand, lumber, coal or other bulk materials or supplies” — on commercially zoned parcels without a special permit from the board of appeals.
“They needed to come get permits, tell us what they were going to do, and then start working — rather than start working and then go ‘Oops, I’m sorry,’ ” said Inger. “One has to assume they felt that it was their land, and they had a right to do anything. But Wellfleet doesn’t like that.”
Donna DiGiovanni, 61, and her husband, Steve, 62, are no strangers to Outer Cape zoning and business regulations. They co-own The Gallery, on Route 6 in Eastham. Donna DiGiovanni owns Truro Waterfront Homes, a rental operation in Truro. In 2012, Steve DiGiovanni sued the Truro Zoning Board of Appeals and a number of Truro neighbors after the ZBA concluded that the marketing and renting of a development he owns there was “inconsistent with and contrary to the intentions and purposes of the governing residential zoning district.”
The day after Fowler made his cease and desist order official, the building dept. received a permit application from the DiGiovannis for site clearing. That application is “incomplete, still under review,” said Fowler. The DiGiovannis, who, like their attorney, Ben Zehnder, did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article, have submitted no official plans for the property.
They have hinted at some, though. In an emailed statement to the Independent last week, Donna DiGiovanni said her “current plans for 1065 US-6 is to provide a contractors yard for GFM Enterprises.” GFM is a South Dennis-based excavating company specializing in septic systems. And last week, the DiGiovannis submitted a request to Wellfleet’s DPW for a curb cut from their lot onto Old Wharf Road.
That request incensed Old Wharf Road residents and neighbors who, said Parent, “activated very quickly, and wrote probably more letters on one particular subject than I think the planning board and board of selectmen have seen in a long time.”
DPW Director Mark Vincent could not be reached for comment. But Wellfleet Police Chief Michael Hurley said Vincent had reached out to him for advice, which he had provided.
“I had some real concerns about the request,” said Hurley. “You have sightline issues that are there clearly as you come on or off the highway. It’s a winding road. There’s a traffic island there, so the heavy commercial vehicles would have trouble navigating through there. It’s the one road into many populated neighborhoods and to beach access. Real concerns.”
Vincent agreed. Town Administrator Maria Broadbent announced at the Jan. 26 select board meeting that the DPW had denied the curb cut request. “Granted,” she said, “due process is in order, and the applicant has the option to appeal that.”
The DiGiovannis have 30 days to appeal the DPW’s rejection of their application. They can take their grievances to the zoning board of appeals, where, said Inger, “they’d really have to make their case.”