State charges Hull homeowners paved over dunes for driveway and sheds

Tom Benner

Beachfront property owners in Hull are accused of paving sand dunes to make way for a driveway and storage sheds.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court this week against Ellen and Michael Hartman, charging them with violating the state’s Wetlands Protection Act by putting black top down over dunes on Nantasket Beach.

The couple violated state wetlands protections designed to control flooding, prevent pollution, and protect sea creatures and the coast from storm damage, the complaint alleges.

The Hartmans, who lives on Beach Avenue, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Coakley is seeking a court order requiring the couple to restore the dunes and pay fines of up to $25,000 for each violation.

According to the complaint, the couple illegally altered 2,550 square feet of protected dunes on their property. The lawsuit claims an area of coastal dune that the Hartmans removed was one they had previously changed and were then ordered to restore by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The lawsuit claims that in September 2005 the couple built a concrete driveway four times the size of the crushed stone driveway that regulators had previously approved for the property. They also put up two storage sheds and spread crushed stone where the dune had been, the complaint alleges.

“Coastal dunes serve a vital role in storm damage prevention and flood control, and also protect inland resource areas from storm damage,” MassDEP Acting Commissioner Arleen O’Donnell said in a statement. “Destruction of these dunes places the beach and nearby properties in harm’s way.”

Town officials say they are not directly involved in the complaint, but Hull’s conservation administrator Ann Herbst said the town is vigilant about protecting sand dunes.

“The town has put a lot of work into protecting the primary frontal dune and filling in illegal dune openings, because it’s really the frontline defense against storms and floods,” Herbst said.

Tom Benner of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at tbenner@ledger.com.