This story has been updated to correct the date Great Barrington's zoning bylaws were passed.
GREAT BARRINGTON — People who live near a garbage trucking operation say they've had it with early morning noise and diesel fumes from a business they say is violating local laws.
"It's an industrial siege," said Paul Jones, a resident of Blue Hill Road, at a recent Select Board meeting.
Residents say they are tired of waiting for the town to enforce one of several cease and desist orders issued over the years by town Building Inspector Edwin May to Gary O'Brien, who owns Irish Trucking, Gary O'Brien Trucking, and rents space to Roger Trucking.
In response to The Eagle's questions about his operation, O'Brien sent an email from his attorney, Edward McCormick, who said the company believes it is not violating the town's bylaw, yet is "working with the town to resolve any legal issues that may exist."
May issued another cease and desist order to O'Brien on Nov. 22 to immediately stop all trucking, transfer and dumping at the site on Roger Road, but residents say that while the noise has lessened since they brought their complaints to the town Select Board last week, nothing has ceased.
"This has been going on for years," said resident Roger Belanger, of Fairview Terrace, who pressed the board for answers about why the orders are not being enforced.
In a 2011 cease and desist order, O'Brien's second, May said there were too many trucks, too much heavy equipment, too many employees, and that using the property as a "landscaper's yard" was not allowed.
The operation in what is now a residential neighborhood began before the town approved zoning laws in 1932. It is allowed to continue operating, but with limitations carved from a 1996 lawsuit the town brought against former owner Leamon Roger over an increase in activity there.
The suit led to a judgment in which he agreed to stop all garbage-related activity, including the transfer of construction demolition debris, and said other people, companies or operations aren't allowed to pick up anything at the site. This judgment was transferred to O'Brien when he bought the property in 2010.
McCormick's email stated that O'Brien's company, GJO LLC, is now complying with this judgment.
But in the most recent cease and desist order, May reminds O'Brien of the judgment. In it May also said that O'Brien had extended his parking area without a site plan review from the Planning Board, and that he must apply for one now.
Select Board Chairman Sean Stanton said he assumed daily fines would have already piled up for O'Brien if he didn't comply with the order.
Apparently not. Michael Andelman, a Blue Hill Road resident, said he learned from town documents that O'Brien had been cited and had a "nominal" fine.
But Jones told the board that $80,000 in accrued noncompliance fines were forgiven after O'Brien won a 2013 appeal that started at the town Zoning Board of Appeals and landed in Berkshire Superior Court.
While O'Brien was represented by McCormick, the town had no counsel, and inspector May was on his own, Jones said.
Surprised and dismayed by this, the board voted unanimously on Monday to ensure the town would be represented by its lawyer if O'Brien and the town return to court.
It could happen. Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin, who was not working for the town yet when the matter first reared up, said O'Brien has until Dec. 31 to comply.
Residents of Roger Road and nearby Blue Hill Road and Fairview Terrace told the Select Board that over the last six months early morning and evening truck and related noise has increased, there's more idling and a pervasive diesel smell outside.
"It's now an industrial park, a repair garage with trucks from all over," Jones said, adding that he is measuring sound, and that the trucks exceed 100 decibels at times, at 40 to 50 yards from the road.
Andelman said the noise begins as early as 4 a.m. and goes later than 8 p.m. at times, and includes "the slam of heavy metal," and some sounds of "revving and explosions ... like a race car."
Andelman said he made a formal complaint to the town, and began visiting May every few weeks to ask why the previous order still isn't being enforced.
Yet Andelman said it's getting a little better since residents went to the board last week.
Standing outside his house Tuesday, he said truckers have slowed their speeds, reduced gear switching and air braking. He also said the noise starts later now, at around 5:30 a.m.
But at that moment, a pickup truck with a loud muffler barrels down the hill well-above the speed limit, just as a dump truck passes it. Andelman said that pickup truck is another one that often wakes him up early, and that traffic from O'Brien's employees is another source of aggravation.
Residents were told by town officials to call police when the trucks go by. One, Jan Wojcik, said he was "laughed at" when he did.
"If you're being laughed at, that needs to be dealt with," Stanton said.
Wojcik said there are "racing cars" on the O'Brien property on weekends.
"Weekends are hopeless," he added.
Ruby Chang, a local pediatrician who also sits on the town board of health, lives on Roger Road. She said her husband, a surgeon who has to wake up at 5 a.m. was, until last week, being awoken at 4 a.m. by trucks.
Chang also said diesel fuel is a carcinogen, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and Chang said she worries about residents regularly breathing in the fumes.
And she said she is not happy with the apparent lack of teeth in the cease and desist order, and the way "the town treats its citizens" in this regard.
"This is not a high rent district and citizens in and around my neighborhood are not being heard," she said.
In a formal letter to the board, Belanger, said the noise from trucks coming and going has `increased three fold" in the last six months. In the past it had been "tolerable," he said, and noted that O'Brien had, for a short time, obeyed the 2011 cease and desist order, but is now ignoring it.
But no one appears to know how to enforce the order. Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said this falls in Zoning Board of Appeals territory, where O'Brien can appeal it.
But Tabakin said an appeal to that board would likely take until February to start, because of town procedures.
Select Board Vice Chairman Stephen C. Bannon said residents should call police every time a truck passes, or at any violation, so there is a record to use as evidence.
Stanton told residents the Select Board can only do so much here, though he understands the frustration with the lack of enforcement.
"All we can do is listen," he said.
And Bannon wasn't pleased about the town's response over the years.
"The process is disappointing to say the least," he said. "The neighbors deserve better. The cease and desist order isn't worth the paper it was printed on if we don't enforce it."
Heather Bellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871