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Judge weighs arguments on whether to put temporary halt to Rockport hotel

By Stephen Betts | Mar 30, 2021
20 Central St. in Rockport

Rockport — A state judge said Tuesday he will issue a ruling as soon as he can on a request by neighbors to put a temporary hold to construction of a hotel in Rockport village.

A Zoom hearing was held March 30 before Justice Bruce Mallonee on a request by neighbors for the court to issue a temporary restraining order until the court decides the wider issue of whether the Rockport Planning Board properly approved the 20 Central Street LLC hotel at 20 Central St.

The appeal was filed in the Knox County Court in Rockland on behalf of John Priestley, Mark Schwarzmann, David Barry and Winston Whitney.

The neighbors argue the temporary restraining order is needed to prevent irreparable harm, that the harm would outweigh any harm to the hotel developer, that the neighbors are likely to be successful in their overall appeal and that the public interest will not be adversely affected by granting the injunction.

Attorney Andre Duchette told Justice Mallonee on March 30 that an earlier restraining order, issued by the judge on Jan. 8 but later removed following a hearing, cost the hotel developer two weeks. He said granting a temporary restraining order now that the building permit has been issued would cost the developer more money and time.

He also voiced concern that any temporary order could last for a long time because of the amount of litigation that neighbors have already filed.

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.

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 neighbors have 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 Rockport Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the neighbors appeal at a Jan. 21 meeting.

The town issued a building permit March 10.

Site work at the property began in October.

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