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ROCKPORT – The Rockport Municipal Office has issued planning permission for the hotel being built in the village…again.

Construction had been suspended due to calls for the project by the group called Friends of Rockport.

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

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

Bickford also noted that the permit was for a 20-room hotel. This number is down from the 26 chambers previously planned, in accordance with the decisions taken within the framework of the appeal procedure.

The project is built by Stuart, Marianne and Tyler Smith. Bickford said they could continue construction “at their own risk” as further appeals are expected.

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

The exterior of the building has been largely completed and further work will focus on the interior spaces. Residents were allowed tours of the building in January.

The Friends of Rockport, a group of town residents, filed an appeal in court against the Planning Board’s initial approval of the project, arguing it blocks scenic views and exacerbates parking shortages at the downtown. Neighbors also started a petition that led to the approval of new city ordinances, including one limiting the number of bedrooms to 20.

The planning board first approved the 26-room hotel and restaurant on February 27, 2020 for the Smiths, who do business as 20 Central Street, LLC.

This was appealed to the Zoning Appeal Board, which denied the appeal on Jan. 22, 2021, according to city documents.

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

The case went to Superior Court on March 5, 2021. On December 1, the court issued its first order, referring back to the Planning Board the issues of parking and whether the hotel fits architecturally with his neighbours.

The court also found that the hotel must comply with the new ordinance limiting hotels to 20 rooms in town, even though it was enacted after the 26-room hotel was approved.

In January, the Planning Board held a site visit and meeting to consider these issues and met on February 3 to finalize their decision.

On February 3, the Planning Board approved its findings of fact and affirmed its approval of the hotel’s site plan. The council found it to be architecturally harmonious and to meet parking requirements.

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