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Judge weighs arguments on temporary hold for downtown Rockport hotel

By Stephen Betts | Jan 13, 2021
A court hearing was held online Wednesday morning, Jan. 13 over the court challenge filed by neighbors to the proposed hotel in downtown Rockport.

Rockport — A state judge heard arguments Wednesday on whether the town of Rockport should continued to be restrained from issuing a building permit for the proposed 26-room hotel in Rockport village.

Attorneys for the neighbors who oppose the project, the town, and the hotel developers made their arguments to Justice Bruce Mallonee during a nearly 90-minute online hearing.

Justice Mallonee invited the attorneys to file any additional written arguments by that afternoon (Wednesday, Jan. 13) and that he would then issue a ruling.

Mallonee signed a temporary restraining order Jan. 8 that was requested on behalf of the Friends of Rockport and registered Rockport voters Clare Tully, Mark Schwarzmann and John Priestley. Priestley lives across the street from where the hotel is to be built and owns a commercial property also across the street.

Attorney Kristin Collins, who represents the Friends group and the neighbors, had filed her request for an injunction on Jan. 7 and the town had been notified that evening.

The hearing was then scheduled.

Collins told Justice Mallonee at the Wednesday 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 six more rooms, 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 that 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 ordinance 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 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: ANANUR FORMA | Jan 13, 2021 14:50

Parking ....terrible there already.

I had to stop attempting to go to concerts.

Walking from town office in winter in order to park is just too far, for me.

That includes getting there 15 minutes early, still no place to park. Bah humbug.

Posted by: Jeannie L. Wood | Jan 13, 2021 13:49

Not sure why there is such a fuss over this building when back in the 70's there was one there, I guess if it gets turned down it would be a nice spot to plant some nice tall thick cedar tree's that grow about 40' tall. SWW

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