PEABODY — A Peabody attorney is calling on the city to take immediate action to clean up conditions behind clients’ homes on Berry Street and Endicott Street, near the site of a proposed 40B project at 40-42 Endicott St.

Lawyer Mary Ellen Manning also claims her clients received “threatening” messages from the project developer, Pasquale Todisco, in retaliation for the clients’ decision to appeal the issuance of a blanket permit for the project.

Manning represents several scorers who filed the appeal challenging the Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision to issue the permit for the project. The lawsuit is being discovered with an expected trial date set for the spring of 2023.

Manning says there are several issues that need to be addressed, starting with threatening and intimidating messages and graffiti directed at neighbors. She said the graffiti appeared the same day she sent deposition notices to 13 people.

“The discovery in the case was heating up. Neighbors are clearly being retaliated against,” she said. “I was informed that someone in a Todisco truck tagged the buildings at 40-42 Endicott St. just after taking down several depositions. Messages in the form of warnings and warnings are quite menacing, intentionally creating despicable horror.

The photos clearly show the graffiti displaying the following messages, spray painted in fluorescent orange paint: STAY OUT, NO PARKING, DANGER, NO TRESPASSING.

“I suppose owners have the right to desecrate their own property, but I suggest that the owner should not be allowed to write ‘NO PARKING’ along the length of two very tall buildings,” Manning said. “The posts incorrectly prohibit neighbors from parking (on the street).”

Manning also claims that “the city itself is contributing to the diminished quality of life for neighbors” by creating an “illegal junkyard by placing dozens of abandoned vehicles, including abandoned school buses, right against the backyards of two plaintiffs”. The junkyard is located on city property behind 40-42 Endicott St.

Manning said several of the vehicles had smashed windows and “homeless people and others sought shelter there.”

“I have personally visited my clients’ properties and am appalled at the terms they are subject to,” Manning wrote in an email to city attorney Donald Conn and several city officials on Wednesday. “The neighbors on Berry Street and Endicott Street have suffered enough. It’s clear that the town of Peabody, in addition to being willfully blind to the living conditions it creates for neighbors, is a terrible neighbor.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr. did not dispute the neighbors’ position that the area needs to be cleared.

“They are right, the area has fallen into disrepair, there has been vandalism and overgrowth and these vehicles need to be removed,” he said. “Nobody wants to live in these conditions and nobody should have to. We are getting calls from neighbors and we should have done this and we will deal with it.

Manning said that while she acknowledges that the city code exempts the city from storing derelict and derelict municipal cars without a junkyard license, “the city is not exempt from DEP laws regarding groundwater pollution from abandoned vehicles, nor of its own zoning ordinances,” stating that the area in question is zoned R2 (residential) and “only operational vehicles are permitted. Junk is prohibited.”

In addition to not enforcing its zoning bylaws, Manning said the city is also not enforcing the health code, citing an increased rat infestation. She attached a video from one of the neighbors showing a rat attacking a dog belonging to a striker whose house adjoins the tagged building and the illegal scrapyard. The dog’s injuries were serious enough to require an emergency visit to a veterinarian.

Manning said she contacted Conn last weekend to inform her of the dire living conditions and ask for help, but Conn did not respond. Manning sent a second email to Conn on Wednesday, this one also addressed to Chief Health Officer Sharon Cameron and several other city officials.

Manning asks the city to enforce city codes and state and federal laws and regulations, remove abandoned vehicles and trash from 5 Berry St, remove the rat infestation, d ‘Install signage in front of 40-42 Endicott Street indicating that parking is permitted, clean up land and groundwater caused by scrapped vehicles, remove graffiti and cite offenders.

Conn told him Thursday that the city had already begun removing vehicles from the property following Manning’s first email and that Cameron claimed the city routinely exterminates on a monthly basis.

“The only thing I know of that was taken out was a boat,” Manning said.

Police Chief Tom Griffin said his department has been working closely with City Hall for “a few weeks to clean up these vehicles” and that some of the police vehicles will likely be traded in for credit.

Bettencourt said that from next week the vehicles will be moved to other locations until they can be sold at an auction in November.

“These things have been stored there for years and there are just way too many vehicles,” he said. “We are working on it and will have them removed.”

Anne Marie Tobin can be reached at [email protected]