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Judge vacates restraining order on Rockport hotel

By Stephen Betts | Jan 20, 2021
Photo by: Daniel Dunkle Site work began in October at 20 Central St. in Rockport.

Rockland — A state judge has vacated a temporary restraining order he issued two weeks ago to block the town from issuing a building permit on a proposed hotel in Rockport village.

Justice Bruce Mallonee issued his ruling Tuesday, Jan. 19 in the Knox County court.

The justice ruled that the Friends of Rockport and registered Rockport voters Clare Tully, Mark Schwarzmann and John Priestley did not show irreparable harm if the temporary injunction was lifted.

The judge stated in his ruling, however, that if the Rockport code officer issues a building permit for the 20 Central Street LLC hotel at 20 Central St., the neighbors can go back to court for further relief.

The neighbors' request for the court to determine whether the hotel must adhere to two new ordinances – approved by voters at an Aug. 18 town meeting – remains pending before the court and scheduling will be made for a trial on that matter.

Justice Mallonee had issued a temporary restraining order on Jan. 8 at the neighbors' request. That was followed by a hearing Jan. 13 at which attorneys for each side offered their arguments.

Attorney Kristin Collins, who represents the Friends group and the neighbors, told Justice Mallonee at the Jan. 13 hearing that without a continued restraining order, her clients would suffer harm from construction of the hotel. She said that if the hotel is 26 rooms rather than the 20-room cap approved by voters in August, it will mean more guests and more vehicles downtown.

She argued that residents had circulated petitions in town to change ordinances to reduce the impact of such a project, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the regularly scheduled town meeting was postponed from June 9 until Aug. 18. She said the project should be reviewed under the new ordinances.

One of the new ordinances approved by residents limits downtown hotels to 20 rooms. The second petition would require that an independent traffic study be conducted to approve offsite and shared parking.

Sarah Gilbert, who represents the developer 20 Central Street LLC, pointed out at the Jan. 13 court hearing that the 20 Central also had to wait to proceed because of the pandemic. She argued that the time to have filed a request for a restraining order was not until the town has issued a building permit.

Attorney Daniel Murphy, who represents the town, pointed out that petitioners had by law 45 days from when approval was granted to try to retroactively overturn a Planning Board approval but this effort came too late.

The Rockport Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. to make final findings of fact that the Rockport Planning Board did not err in its various decisions while considering the proposed downtown hotel project.

The Planning Board approved the 26-room hotel proposed by Stuart, Marianne and Tyler Smith at 20 Central St. at a Feb. 27, 2020, meeting.

The Friends of Rockport and the residents opposed to the hotel filed appeals to the Zoning Board.

Site work at the property began in October.

The opponents to the project contend the construction process will cause noise, dust and general disruption of the peace and enjoyment of their living and working nearby the construction site. They also contend the hotel once built will cause noise and light pollution, aesthetic impacts and impacts on an already overburdened parking and traffic situation.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Steven D Bryant | Jan 20, 2021 15:56

The Projects that Stewart and family have ALWAYS been esthetically pleasing once completed. And as far as 20 or 26 rooms "perhaps" a small addition to an already parking problem,  but additional revenue to the local businesses i.e. Graffam's, Nina Junes, 18 Central, etc. should outweigh the concern. Rockport harbor is a beautiful attraction to the tourists as well. Why not give them the awesome experience of spending a  couple days and nights in one of the coast's most beautiful ocean side communities. Where townsfolk will more than make them feel welcome. I personally hope the few will get on board with the many and make this a friendly town full of people who care. You won't regret it.

To all involved in this decision making process.....Thank you. We all face bigger challenges in our lives than breathing in a little dust and the sound of heavy equipment and construction. I for one hope to be around to see the finished product. God Bless.


Posted by: William & Lorraine Ryan | Jan 20, 2021 14:39

If the opponents lived through the noise, dust, and general disruption of the peace and enjoyment of their living during the construction of the new library, they should be able to handle it during the construction of the Hotel. The Smith's projects have almost always been done professionally, and benifitted the towns they were done in.

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