WELLFLEET — Neighbors of a contractor’s yard at the corner of Route 6 and Old Wharf Road, which they and local officials contend is operating illegally, want the operation shut down.
But while town officials say they know about the problems the contractor’s yard is causing, they believe the best way to address the issue is to let a court process play out.
GFM Enterprises, a Dennis-based excavating company, leases the site as a satellite location from Great White Realty Group, whose principals are Donna and Steve DiGiovanni of Truro. Donna is also listed as a project manager on GFM’s staff.
Two cease-and-desist orders have been issued over the last year by the town’s building commissioners. Both were upheld when attorney Ben Zehnder, representing GFM and Great White, asked the zoning board of appeals to reverse them. The ZBA also denied the companies’ applications for special permits for the excavating operations. But GFM continues to ignore the town’s stop-work orders.
There are currently three pending state Land Court cases appealing the town’s actions, filed by Zehnder on behalf of GFM and Great White Realty. Zehnder’s position is that a contractor’s yard is allowed by right at the site, while the town argues that GFM’s operations go far beyond the intent of the town’s zoning bylaw.
Meanwhile, neighbors say dust and grit waft in great clouds through the area, sticking to their cars and outdoor furniture and streaking their windows. The constant beeping of backhoes, bulldozers, and trucks backing up keep them indoors, they say.
“They start between 6 and 6:30 a.m. almost seven days a week,” said year-round resident Kevin Coakley, who lives at 65 Old Wharf Road. “We’ve called the police several times, but they just ignore the police. My question is, how can you negotiate with people who don’t respect the authority of the town?”
Coakley said he has lived in Wellfleet for 20 years. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Donna DiGiovanni and GFM president Gregory Morris did not respond to emails from the Independent seeking comment.
The battle dates back to January 2021, when the DiGiovannis bought the then-wooded lot and on the following day cut down three-quarters of the trees, removed topsoil, and began grading. They had not secured any permits, and their actions prompted the town’s first cease-and-desist order.
Since then, GFM has moved heavy equipment onto the site and, in the last few weeks, ramped up activity there. The company recently installed an underground electric line, neighbors say. They complained that the town’s building department had issued the required permit despite the outstanding cease-and-desist orders.
Old Wharf Road resident William Iacuessa said neighborhood outrage is widespread. “This company seems to live up to their name, Great White,” Iacuessa said. “Great White says, ‘We’ll do what we want,’ and the town does nothing.”
Town Administrator Richard Waldo confirmed that an electrical permit had been issued but said it differed from a building permit, which could be withheld. The electrical permit merely indicates the work was done according to standards set by the state.
Houses on Wixom Road have only a stockade fence separating them from all the activity. “They are very modest houses,” Iacuessa said. “If we were talking $750,000 to $1 million houses, there would be a different response.”
Iacuessa said he worries that the longer GFM is allowed to operate, the more established the operation will become, which could make it less likely the Land Court will stop it.
Sharon Inger, chair of the zoning board of appeals, said the town’s attorney has advised her panel not to take any further action. “We’ve been told any enforcement measures will be appealed and make the issue last even longer,” she said.
Asked about the option of securing a court injunction to stop work on the site at least until the three appeals are settled, new town administrator Rich Waldo said, “going for an injunction is still on the table.”
The neighbors put together enough money to hire attorney David Reid, who spoke for them during the zoning board hearings. In an email to the Independent, Reid said town officials are “painfully aware of the ongoing issues at the site.
“The neighbors are not parties to the appeals, so we have no say or direct input, but we are monitoring the appeals and supporting town counsel,” Reid said. “We had hoped that the property owners might abide by the town’s multiple rulings, but they have refused so far.”
The Land Court held a status conference with attorneys on both sides on June 22. They were given a deadline of July 31 to submit a joint report confirming completion of discovery in the cases and indicating if they plan to ask the court for summary judgment based on the submissions made.
The filings requested by the court had not yet been posted on its website by the Independent’s deadline this week.
If neither side intends to submit motions for a summary judgment, the court instructed them to request a date for a pretrial conference.