Global warming crusader Laurie David may be an expert when it comes to lecturing others about the evils of SUVS and the redemptive power of energy saving light bulbs. But when it comes to conserving her own backyard, it seems she’s still a little green. Sources say David—a Martha’s Vineyard summer resident and the wife of Seinfeld creator Larry David—recently found herself on the receiving end of an indignant eco-critique after angry locals on the tony island accused her and her husband of endangering protected wetlands.
According to a “notice of apparent violations” issued by the Vineyard’s Chilmark Conservation Commission, the Davids were reprimanded last August for building a 26-foot-long barbecue station, stone-and-concrete bonfire pit, and outdoor theater on an environmentally sensitive patch of their 14-acre North Road property without the proper permits. They were also cited for tearing up protected vegetation to make way for a lush, sodded lawn, among other, pettier crimes against nature. The commission has since ordered the couple to remove the offending structures and restore the area to its previous state.
In a letter to the commission, the Davids laid blame for the violations on their former property manager, year-round resident Michael Halbreich, whom they claim failed to inform them he hadn’t secured the proper landscaping permits before breaking ground. Halbreich, a trained lawyer and one-time friend of the couple whose name was even used in a season-two episode of David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, declined to comment about the dispute, but has reportedly sworn that his clients were fully aware they lacked permission for the work.
Whatever the Davids’s excuse, the situation has the Prius-loving couple’s neighbors crying foul. Jacqueline Mendez-Diez, whose property abuts the David’s sprawling, seven-building compound, claims they knew full well they didn’t have permission but went ahead with the project anyway so it would be finished in time for the arrival of a VIP guest, National Resources Defense Council champion Robert Kennedy Jr.—the man who first introduced Laurie David to environmental activism at an L.A. breakfast seminar in 1997.
“Laurie didn’t want to stir up trouble and go for the permits because she wanted to have everything ready by the time Bobby Kennedy Jr. arrived” for an extended vacation in July, Mendez-Diez says. “There was a frenzy of building before he came. You couldn’t drive past the house because trucks would be spilling out into the road, and everyone was talking about what was going on there, wondering if the King of England was coming or something.”
Confronted about the violations, Laurie David herself sensed there was more at stake in her island imbroglio than just the good will of her neighbors. According to field notes taken by conservation officer Rusty Walton during his initial survey of the grounds, “Mrs. David was seriously upset about problems on the property which I cited in a notice of violation letter recently. Her agitation was heightened by the fact that she is seriously ‘into’ conservation herself, apparently largely in the field of global warming. The discovery of problems on her property was therefore embarrassing, as it gives an appearance of hypocrisy.”
A spokesman for the Davids, Tom Keaney, declined to say whether his clients had removed the barbecue pit and stage as ordered, referring only to a statement issued by Larry David: “Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the person (actually a friend) whom I hired to oversee installing a barbecue area (among other things) on Martha’s Vineyard, was completely negligent in obtaining proper permits, which he assured us and others numerous times he had. In short, we were scammed.” Kennedy could not be reached for comment by press time.