A judge overturned Rockport’s issuance of a building permit for a struggling downtown hotel project. The developers are embroiled in a legal battle soon after the project is approved.
Judge Bruce Mallonee has refused to issue a court injunction to prevent the city from allowing further work on the hotel while the planning council reconsiders the project, as he ordered last month. In his ruling on Monday, Mallonee did not order construction to stop, but said he expected the city and the hotel’s developer, 20 Central Street LLC, to comply with the ruling. as they did with previous ordinances.
“The court proceedings have shown no reluctance on the part of the city or 20 Central to accept a court decision in the form of a declaratory judgment or to comply with any other aspect of the court judgment. If that changes, plaintiffs can return to court and seek additional redress, ”according to the Jan. 3 decision.
It’s not immediately clear what the latest move means for the ongoing construction of the Rockport Harbor Hotel, which has been underway for almost a year.
The legal battle surrounding the Rockport Harbor Hotel began in court early last year. A group of Rockport residents – called the Friends of Rockport – have filed an appeal to try to have the project’s approval canceled by the planning council. They also filed a complaint for the city to apply the results of an August 2020 referendum that placed a 20-room ceiling on downtown hotels to the project. The lawsuit and appeal have been treated as one case since they were filed in early 2021.
The hotel is built on what was once a wasteland wedged between a restaurant and an old cafe in downtown Rockport. When it was originally offered in 2019, the developers planned to build a 35-room boutique hotel. After hearing concerns from residents, the number of rooms was reduced to 26, although the project would still consume the entire lot.
Last month Mallonee ruled that the August 2020 referendum results should apply to the project, even if it was approved before the referendum. This means that the hotel must have six fewer rooms than expected. In that December decision, Mallonee also referred the project to the Rockland Planning Council for further consideration of the parking lot and architectural elements.
With Monday’s decision to revoke the building permit, Mallonee referred the permit application back to the city’s code enforcement officer for action following further review of the project. by the town planning council.
“My clients are encouraged by this decision and sincerely hope that the developer and the city will approach this additional review process in an effort to better respond to the impacts of this project on the neighborhood,” said Kristin Collins, the lawyer working with friends of Rockport. in a statement Monday.
Messages left with the development company behind the project and the CEO of Rockport were not immediately returned Tuesday morning.