EASTHAM — A dozen neighbors have banded together to implore the town to do something about Marjorie and Sherman Lovering’s yard. They say the couple’s property at 10 McGuerty Road is “a mess,” and some of them say it has reached the point of being a health hazard.
Sherman Lovering, who attended a Feb. 3 zoning board of appeals meeting that took up the neighbors’ concerns, said his family has lived there for decades without causing any complaints.
“There’s not a person at this meeting who is not head-over-heels for Sherm Lovering and his wife Marge,” said Maureen Clough, who lives around the corner from the Loverings at 10 Dundee Road. “They’re the sweetest, most wonderful neighbors.” But during the meeting, Clough also called the Loverings’ yard “a disaster.”
Wooden sheds, old vehicles, and tarp-covered trusses are visible in the yard. But at the ZBA meeting, Berardo Parisse Jr., who has been the Loverings’ next-door neighbor for 16 years at 20 McGuerty Road, said he is worried about something else.
Parisse said rats have proliferated since the Loverings’ son, Jeffrey, began parking trailers and other vehicles at the house. He claimed that he had trapped and killed 20 rats during that time. Parisse’s wife, Paula, said, “I feel like I live in a city and not on Cape Cod. I never saw a rat in my whole life, and now they’re in my back yard. I can’t garden anymore because I have rats.”
In an interview after the meeting, Jeffrey Lovering told the Independent he has been living part-time with his parents, who are 96 years old, since the pandemic began. He disputed the neighbors’ claims about the presence of rats on the property. “I’ve never seen a rat,” he said, adding, “I’ve put out traps, and I’ve never caught one.”
A year ago, after neighbors first brought their concerns to the town’s health department, Eastham Health and Environment Director Jane Crowley walked the property. She wrote in a May 24, 2021 report that she had observed “no rodent activity” there.
A month later, on June 21, 2021, the health department staff responded to further complaints from neighbors with another “drive by and walk by” inspection. They did not enter the property, Crowley told the Independent. No one saw any indication of rats or of garbage, or anything that would constitute a violation of local and state sanitary codes, she said on Tuesday.
If people were seeing rats in the neighborhood, she said, it could be because the area recently was connected to the town water system. The rodent activity may be due to the disturbance caused by installing water pipes underground, she said.
Town officials did agree with the neighbors that the yard was filled with sheds and vehicles, and that would fall under the purview of the building dept., Crowley said. That is why the case was taken up by the zoning board of appeals on Feb. 3.
During that meeting, Neil Immerman, who lives at 215 Wilma Road and whose lot is near the Loverings’, described the grounds at 10 McGuerty Road as “not acceptable” and “a complete mess.”
The Parisses asked an attorney, Victoria Dalmas of Brewster’s Senie & Associates, to join in the virtual meeting. “Frankly,” Dalmas told the ZBA, the yard “gives the appearance of an unsightly automobile graveyard.”
Jeffrey Lovering told the Independent the yard may look crowded because he is using it to prefabricate parts of his future home in Maine. He believes the neighbors’ complaints about rats are a misguided response to the construction materials in the yard. “People associate rats with properties that have lots of stuff,” he said.
But Lovering admitted that “food is in abundance on this property.” His parents, he explained, have apple trees, peach trees, and berry bushes. “I’ve even seen coyotes feeding on our pear tree,” he said.
During the Feb. 3 meeting, Eastham Building Commissioner Justin Post said he had surveyed the site last summer and thought the backyard structures needed “at least a permit from the select board for the campers and accessory trailers.”
The ZBA ordered the Loverings to get a six-month temporary permit for one of the structures on a truck bed, and another temporary permit for a small shed. The ZBA also ordered the family to move the shed 12 feet from the property line. Jeffrey Lovering told the Independent he has since received the two permits for the sheds. The building department’s administrative assistant, Kayla Urquhart, confirmed that the permits were issued on Feb. 28.
Select board chair Art Autorino, who attended the ZBA meeting, said he wished something could be done. “But Eastham does not have a blight ordinance that says if your property is not being maintained, we are going to enforce it and clean it up.”
As for the supposed rat problem, ZBA chair Joanne Verlinden told the neighbors, “That is not in our purview. We have no jurisdiction there.”
Health Director Crowley asked the town’s animal control officer to conduct another inspection of the area, she told the Independent on March 18. The animal control officer had not reported back as of March 22, Crowley said.
The ZBA instructed neighbors to bring any additional complaints to the select board, planning board, or Town Administrator Jacqueline Beebe.