The town of Aquinnah today delivered a cease and desist letter to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), warning it to halt any work on a gaming hall because the tribe lacks a town building permit and such a project is prohibited by local zoning bylaws.

This latest legal salvo by the town to block the class II gaming facility was authorized by town selectmen Monday. The letter was signed by Leonard Jason Jr., acting as assistant town building inspector.

The tribe’s leadership last week told the Gazette that plans were moving ahead to convert the tribe’s community center, and said it hopes to have the casino completed as early as this fall. And one of the tribe’s lawyers, Scott Crowell, indicated Monday that the tribe would not recognize the town’s cease and desist letter, insisting that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act trumps state and local regulations involving a tribal gaming operation in Aquinnah.

If the tribe ignores the letter, as promised, the town would be forced to seek a federal court order to attempt to halt the work, which town officials have said they are prepared to do.

In the letter, Mr. Jason said: “Please be advised that the tribe cannot proceed with its renovation plans for a casino in the absence of a revised building permit. Further, commercial gaming is not a permitted use under the zoning bylaws of the town of Aquinnah as were in effect in 1983 (and which are in effect today).”

The letter also said: “Mr. Vanderhoop testified that work was to commence beginning today. Please be advised that no work can be undertaken in the absence of a building permit issued by the town. Accordingly, I must instruct you to cease and desist from all construction activities at this time.”

The letter was referring to tribal chairman Tobias Vanderhoop’s deposition last week in a federal lawsuit sorting out the tribe’s claim to sovereignty involving tribal gaming in Aquinnah and the insistence by the town, state and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association that the tribe must submit to state and local regulations, which prohibit gaming in Aquinnah.

The tribal chairman testified that the gaming operation can proceed without town approval under IGRA, and thus no building permits or town inspections were necessary, according to the letter. Mr. Vanderhoop also said that the tribe has hired an architect and a contractor, although no plans for the project have been made available to the town, the letter said.