One of the strange things about being an editor in a small community is that, as the years go by, the news seems to repeat itself.
Back in 2016, Russell Braun, who was then Truro’s building commissioner, slapped a cease-and-desist order on Horton’s Camping Resort in North Truro for clear-cutting 11 acres of trees and brush, including more than 8,000 square feet of woods belonging to the Cape Cod National Seashore, without getting the required permits from town regulatory boards. Horton’s is part of Adventure Bound Camping Resorts, with properties in 12 states. The owner, Wayne Klekamp of Winter Park, Fla., appealed the order. His lawyer said at the time that it was simply “a misstep in failing to communicate.” Later, in court, he argued, falsely, that the property was not subject to Truro’s zoning laws.
Last January, the Great White Realty Group, new owners of a 1.38-acre lot on Route 6 in Wellfleet, clear-cut almost all of the trees on the property without getting any permits. They were hit with a cease-and-desist order by then-Building Inspector Paul Fowler. Donna and Steve DiGiovanni of Truro, who run Great White Realty, appealed Fowler’s order, and their lawyer, Ben Zehnder, told the Wellfleet Zoning Board of Appeals that his clients had acted within their rights. “Anybody who owns property in Wellfleet, as long as the property’s outside either a conservation buffer zone or a scenic byway, can cut down trees on your property,” said Zehnder, falsely. When the ZBA rejected their appeal, the DiGiovannis sued the town in Mass. Land Court.
In June, it was déjà vu all over again, this time at Lecount Hollow in Wellfleet. Fowler issued another cease-and-desist order, this time to David and Chellise Sexton, who own almost 25 acres in the National Seashore and had sawed down a huge swath of forest without getting any permits in order to create a parking lot. They had run an illegal parking business there the previous summer and had been warned by the town to stop. The Sextons own Cook’s by the Ocean, “the finest beachside cottage colony in the world,” according to their website. They appealed the stop-work order, arguing, falsely, that the law didn’t apply to them. When the ZBA turned them down, they sued the town in Land Court.
Readers seem not to care very much about this pattern of arboreal law-breaking and lying. We received just one letter to the editor about it, which described the DiGiovannis’ gambit as “a shocking story of entitlement run amok” and called for some kind of punishment.
Although most Wellfleet and Truro residents say they support conservation, they have been strangely silent about these violations. Indeed, the Truro Conservation Trust has brokered a deal with Mr. Klekamp that not only lets him off the hook for cutting the 11 acres but could actually enable him to develop nearly 30 acres in the Seashore into new house lots.
If trees are cut down in a forest and no one says anything, do they make a sound?