ROCKPORT — The Rockport Town Office has issued a building permit for the hotel under construction in the village… again.

Code Officer Scott Bickford said the permit was issued Friday, April 1.

“We will be slowly starting back up over the next couple of weeks once schedules are worked out with all of our subcontractors whose work was abruptly terminated on January 4th,” said hotel developer Tyler Smith. “All work was stopped in January as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Friends of Rockport…”

Smith is developing the hotel along with his parents, Stuart and Marianne Smith, doing business as 20 Central Street, LLC.

“The lawsuit argued that the hotel was not visually harmonious with the surrounding buildings,” Tyler Smith said. “After three months of an extensive re-review of the building, the application material and the ordinance requirements the planning board once again unanimously found that the building’s architecture is visually harmonious and complements the other buildings in downtown Rockport. We hope the Friends of Rockport have seen that their arguments have been fairly heard and assessed by the court and town and will ultimately be true friends and stop spending the town’s (taxpayers) money.”

According to town officials, the cost to the Town of Rockport in legal fees related to the appeal of the hotel project has reached $147,000. The town pays for attorneys to represent the planning board and the town in the court filings.

Smith went on to say, “We are excited about getting going again on the project and specifically getting the front façade, sidewalk and street finished up so they can be used normally again this summer. The small amount of exterior work (brick, granite and slate) roof will begin immediately as well as framing of interior walls.”

The hotel developers have fulfilled the parking requirements and had a traffic study done in accordance with the court order, according to Bickford. Gorrill Palmer did the traffic study.

Bickford also noted the permit was for a 20-room hotel. That number is down from the previously planned 26 rooms, in accordance with the decisions made in the appeal process.

Bickford said they could continue construction “at their own risk,” since further appeals are expected.

Opponents of the project have 30 days to file an appeal of the permit.

Residents were offered tours of the building in January.

Friends of Rockport, a group of residents in town, filed a court appeal of the original Planning Board approval of the project, arguing it blocks a scenic view and worsens the downtown parking shortage. The neighbors also led a petition drive that led to approval of new town ordinances, including one limiting the number of rooms to 20.

The Planning Board first approved the 26-room hotel and restaurant Feb. 27, 2020.

This was appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which denied the appeal Jan. 22, 2021, according to town documents.

The appellants are: John Priestly, David Barry, David Kantor, Mark Schwartzmann and Winston Whitney.

The case went to Superior Court March 5, 2021. On Dec. 1, the court issued its first order, remanding back to the Planning Board issues of parking and whether the hotel fits in architecturally with its neighbors.

The court has also found the hotel must adhere to the new ordinance limiting hotels to 20 rooms in town even though it was enacted after the approval of the 26-room hotel.

In January, the Planning Board held a site walk and a meeting to consider these matters and met on Feb. 3 to finalize its decision.

The Planning Board on Feb. 3 approved its findings of fact and affirmed its approval of the site plan for the hotel. The board found it was architecturally harmonious and met parking requirements.