Fight against hotels continues after letter published – Knox County VillageSoup

ROCKPORT — It appears the fight for the Rockport Harbor Hotel being built in the village isn’t over, despite a widely circulated letter last week from Friends of Rockport.

Portland attorney Kristin Collins of PretiFlaherty, who represented the group called Friends of Rockport and architect John Priestley in appeals for approval and planning permission for the hotel, sent a letter on May 26 to the Rockport Zoning Board of Appeals, which states:

“I am writing regarding the separate appeals that are pending before the Rockport Board of Appeal regarding (1) the decision of the Planning Board on remand from the Superior Court; and (2) the issuance by the Code Enforcement Officer of a building permit for the 20-room hotel.

“The Friends of Rockport appellants wish to withdraw the building permit appeal they filed on April 26, 2022 and waive any right to a hearing or decision on this appeal. Mr. Priestley for the moment does not withdraw from this call.

“The appellants do not withdraw the appeal of the decision of the Planning Board, which was heard by the Appeals Board on May 10, 2022. They respectfully request that the Board render a final decision on this appeal.”

On May 24, the Friends of Rockport posted a statement on their Facebook page titled “Friends of Rockport Withdraws from Rockport Harbor Hotel Litigation.”

“Having achieved our primary objectives, Friends of Rockport has decided to opt out of any further litigation related to the Rockport Harbor Hotel,” the post reads in part.

The letter was also published on The Pen Bay Pilot’s website, on VillageSoup and in The Camden Herald.

The group’s statement quickly raised questions among City of Rockport staff as to what this means for the future. The Zoning Appeals Board met on May 10 to discuss the appeal of the Planning Board’s decision and appeared ready to confirm the Planning Board. The zoning board did not vote at the meeting, but plans to release formal findings on the facts at its June 2 meeting and take the other appeal which deals with the building permit.

Local architect John Priestley was involved in calls with the Friends of Rockport group, but is specified in the lawyer’s letter. Priestley is the member of the group who has standing to appeal because he has a property directly opposite the hotel project. Plus, he’s apparently continuing an effort that the rest of the Friends group is pulling out of.

On May 25, Rockport’s director of planning and development, Orion Thomas, contacted Priestley and Mark Schwarzmann via email:

“I seek clarification regarding the letter to the editor from Clare Tully regarding the Friends of Rockport withdrawing their litigation against the Rockport Harbor Hotel and not wanting to waste taxpayers’ money. With the appeal still in the books for the June 2, do you both want to continue your call?”

“…The reason you are both on this email is that John’s name is the requester of the appeal and Mark signed and paid for the request when he filed it. I would need to hear from you both if you wish to withdraw one or both appeals. Otherwise, we will proceed as planned.

Priestley responded by email, saying: “Before I can answer this question, I believe you still owe me (we) an answer to questions that were posed to you over a year ago. Specifically, what are you and the city (the select committee) committed to doing to resolve the many years overdue site plan reviews for 18 Central Bistro and Sea Folk, which you know are required by the Land Use Ordinance but never took place. I look forward to your response.”

Thomas has confirmed that 18 Central is unrelated to the present appeals regarding the hotel.

Stuart, Marianne and Tyler Smith are the developers of the hotel project. Opponents of the hotel argue that it eliminates a scenic view of Rockport Village, fails to meet city parking requirements, and does not match the character of surrounding buildings.

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Sandy A. Greer