ROCKPORT — A state judge took advisement arguments on whether a 26-room hotel in downtown Rockport met town standards when it gained approval 20 months ago.

Lawyers for the town, the developer and neighbors opposed to the project made their arguments during a hearing Oct. 4 in Knox County court. Justice Bruce Mallonee will take these arguments under advisement and issue rulings.

The Planning Board approved the 26-room proposed by Stuart, Marianne and Tyler Smith at 20 Central St. at a Feb. 27, 2020, meeting. The number of rooms were reduced from the originally proposed 35 to 26, due to public input. Residents, however, launched a petition drive to further restrict the hotel.

The neighbors asked the court to determine whether the hotel must adhere to two new ordinances — approved by voters at an Aug. 18, 2020, town meeting. One of those set a cap of 20 rooms. The other requires an independent traffic study be conducted to approve offsite and shared parking.

Neighbors John Priestley, Mark Schwarzmann, David Barry and Winston Whitney — calling themselves Friends of Rockport — filed the appeal to the court over the town’s approval of the hotel.

The Stuart family — owner of the developer 20 Central Street LLC hotel — were in attendance at the Oct. 4 hearing.

Justice Mallonee warned the hotel developer on more than one occasions in earlier rulings that it was taking a risk to continue with construction while the appeal was pending.

“Although the court has declined to issue a preliminary injunction or stay, and declines to do so today, it has signaled to 20 Central with what it hopes is unmistakable clarity that in the event either set of plaintiffs prevails, and the court is required to assess remedies, it will not restrained by the risk 20 Central assumed by continued construction as these cases were pending,” Justice Mallonee stated in a ruling issued July 14.

He added in those earlier rulings that the neighbors’ concerns were not fanciful.

The issues focused on during the Oct. 4 hearing were the loss of the view of Rockport Harbor by neighbors and whether parking was adequately addressed by the town.

Attorney Kristin Collins, who represents the neighbors, said town ordinances require that a project impose as little an impact on the scenic view as possible. Collins said no one could say with a straight face that the hotel meets that standard.

Justice Mallonee asked whether the main concern was the “view-obliterating” building.

Collins said when the owner reduced the number of hotel rooms from 35 to 26, the footprint of the building did not change, nor did its height. Justice Mallonee asked whether the developer could have built a smaller building with more space between the hotel and adjacent buildings.

Attorney Daniel Murphy, who represents the town, said the building is harmonious with the adjacent buildings. The lot where the hotel is being built was one contiguous lot at one time,

He said the issue of taste is delegated to the Planning Board.

The developer, 20 Central Street LLC, was represented by attorney Andre Duchette.

The neighbors contend in the court appeal that the Planning Board failed to properly apply several standards in the town’s land use ordinance. Those errors, according to the lawsuit, are not protecting the scenic view from the main road; a parking deficit downtown was not considered; and the board did not find there would be no nuisances from the hotel in terms of lighting and noise.

Justice Mallonee pointed out in an earlier ruling the complexity of the case because the citizens’ petition drive to amend town ordinances  was scheduled for the regular June town meeting vote, but was postponed because of government-imposed precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

The delay exceeded the 45-day period for the town to amend the Planning Board’s approval.

The town issued a building permit March 10.

The hotel at 20 Central St. in Rockport as of Sept. 16, 2021.