Just days before Christmas, the Sconset Trust purchased a 3.2 acre waterfront property for $4.75 million from the DiMartino family for conservation and open space purposess. An hour after the closing, however, the Trust discovered that its holiday acquisition had been tainted.
The property at 2 Gully Road had been clear cut by the sellers, with at least 137 Japanese black pines and an eastern red cedar tree in the coastal bank chopped down. The Nantucket Conservation Commission believes the work was done by the DeMartinos shortly before the sale to open up their view of the waterfront from their estate at One Ocean Avenue. Last Thursday, the commission voted unanimously to issue an enforcement order against the DeMartinos and the company that performed the clear-cutting.
“It’s a Christmas catastrophe,” Conservation Commission chair Ashley Erisman said at the meeting.
While the clear cutting was done on private property, it was conducted in an area considered to be a coastal bank, an area of the shoreline that is protected under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, and under the purview of the Conservation Commission.
When Conservation Commission member Joe Plandowski asked why the sellers of the property would do such a thing, Erisman and others at the meeting responded with their theory.
“It’s probably because it’s their view-shed,” Erisman said. “Their house is probably back there and they're selling the front, and they want to see the ocean. It’s a ‘vista-prune’, not on their property anymore, and it’s a big one. It’s unfortunate. I feel for you guys at the Sconset Trust, you got caught in something a little dirty.”
The property that was clear cut and sold by the DeMartinos at 2 Gully Road sits directly in front of their sprawling property at 1 and 5 Ocean Avenue. The area that was cut down was discovered by the town of Nantucket’s conservation agent Will Dell’Erba, who reported his findings to the Conservation Commission last Thursday.
“Do they think we don’t go to Sconset in the winter time? Do they think we’re asleep at the wheel here?” Conservation Commission member Linda Williams asked at the meeting. “Oh my God. Do they understand this stuff holds the integrity of the land that it’s actually sitting on? I have to say that’s really pathetic. What was the purpose of it? I’m flabbergasted...I’m just staggered by this stupidity for them to think we’re not paying attention to this.”
Attorney Arthur Reade, who represents the Sconset Trust, joined the meeting to say that the Trust had no knowledge of the clear-cutting, but that he had been in touch with the DeMartinos’ attorney, who indicated the family was willing to cooperate with whatever mitigation the Conservation Commission determined is necessary.
“You can’t believe how shocked I was to get the call from Jeff Blackwell this morning an hour after the closing,” Reade said. “An hour after the closing we heard there was an issue about all of this which we had absolutely no knowledge of. We were not involved in this cutting at all. It was brought to the attention of the seller and seller’s lawyer and they assured us they thought whatever they were doing was right, I have no idea on what basis they thought it was right, but that they would deal with the issue.”
A message sent by the Current to the DeMartinos through the Sconset Trust seeking comment was not returned.
“We have owned the property for less than 24 hours so we were obviously not involved in this,” said Sconset Trust executive director Betsy Grubbs.
Dell'Erba counted at least 137 trees that were removed from the area, and they only counted stemps taht were at least four inches in diameter or larger.
After voting to issue enforcement orders to both the previous and current property owners, the Conservation Commission also voted to issue an enforcement order against the company that performed the work, even though it has yet to be identified. DellErba said he is "reasonably confident" that the company will be identified.
“It’s sad really,” Erisman said. “I think at this point all the individuals who have the equipment to be clear cutting an area like this know better. It is a little slimy.”