Rockport Harbor Hotel appellants sue Planning Board action, despite statement withdrawing further litigation
ROCKPORT — Despite a public letter published on May 23 of the Friends of Rockport announcing their withdrawal from further litigation related to the Rockport Harbor Hotel, it was clarified on May 26 that the Friends would pursue their appeal of the city planning board’s decision approving the hotel project.
Additionally, Rockport resident John Priestley independently maintains the course. He is not withdrawing from either the appeal of the Planning Board’s decision to uphold its approval of the hotel project or the appeal that the Rockport Code Enforcement Officer erred in issuing a building permit. issued in April for the construction of the Rockport Harbor Hotel.
The ZBA is scheduled to meet on June 2 to continue hearing the appeal of the Rockport Planning Board’s decision. (Find the supporting documents here)
On May 26, attorney Kristin Collins sent the following letter to the Rockport Zoning Appeal Board, through that body’s attorney, Leah Ruchin:
I am writing to you 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 appeal.
The appellants do not withdraw the appeal of the Planning Board’s decision, which was heard by the Appeal Board on May 10, 2022. They respectfully request that the Board render a final decision on this appeal.
Collins is with the Preti Flaherty Company, with offices in Augusta and Portland. Ruchin is with Portland-based company Drummond Woodsum.
Priestley and Collins collectively declined to comment further.
Clare Tully, Rockport resident and member of the Friends of Rockport, said on May 27, “FOR is retiring from any further litigation, such as the building permit appeal. FOR will also not be pursuing any new lawsuits regarding the hotel, so we will not be filing an appeal with the Supreme Court of Maine. The purpose of our letter was to announce the withdrawal of FOR and to explain the context, having achieved our primary objectives.
The two have been in the business for a while – Collins since 20 Central LLC filed its first site plan application with the City of Rockport in 2019 to build a hotel on Central Street in Rockport Village, and Ruchin since last winter, when the city led the second ZBA appeal for approval of the project by the Planning Board.
Opposition to the construction of the hotel and the city’s process by which it approved the permits has been ongoing since the Planning Board began reviewing the project.
Currently, both appeals are progressing through the municipal process.
On April 26, the second municipal code enforcement officer’s issuance of a building permit dated April 1 to the Rockport Harbor Hotel was appealed by the group Friends of Rockport and the resident John Priestley.
Previously, on March 7, the same appellants had filed a appeal of the findings of fact of the Rockport Planning Board, which had been signed at a meeting held following a court order asking council to review certain aspects of the hotel’s plans.
Through the various appeals and lawsuits filed in Knox County Superior Court, Priestley filed separately from Friends of Rockport.
The Call of March 7 argued that the Planning Board should not have conducted a site visit and should not have received or considered new evidence related to scenic views or architectural harmony.
There are seven additional points under appeal, including the panoramic view findings, which is one of the considerations required by the Land Use Ordinance’s Architectural Harmony Standards.
In a April 11 letter to the ZBA, Collins wrote that the March 7 appeal must be returned to the Rockport Planning Board because the ZBA “cannot analyze the Planning Board’s findings on remand to separate the old record from the new evidence…”
In the April 26 appeal, Collins argued that the CEO erred in issuing planning permission on April 1 because the hotel project itself did not comply with the site plan approval of May 2020.
Meanwhile, construction continues on the 20-room Rockport Harbor Hotel, and LLC directors Tyler, Stuart and Maryann Smith hope to open the hotel in the spring of 2023.
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