GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 16, 2013

Owner gets green light for Granite Street project

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — After months of municipal meetings and planning, a property owner’s plans for a controversial house on Granite Street has been given a green light by the town’s building inspector.

And the project’s contractor said he hopes work on the house can begin within a week.

Developer Ron Roma has been granted a building permit to build a 10,820-square-foot house at 129 Granite St., just down the road from another of his houses at 121 Granite St. The new house will also abut the Yankee Clipper Inn.

The new project has raised a number of questions in Rockport from residents, and from the owner and manager of the Yankee Clipper Inn, over whether the proposed structure fits in with the size and scope of surrounding Granite Street homes.

In July, the Planning Board issued its findings as part of the town’s site plan review process. Site plan review is required for any single- or two-family dwelling that measures 6,000 square feet or more of floor space.

The purpose of site plan review, its backers say, is to provide a comprehensive review of projects in town, minimize the obstruction of scenic views and to minimize departure from the character and scale of buildings in the vicinity, among other factors. But the process has also drawn questions from those who feel it merely delays the process, even for projects that have otherwise gained approvals.

Roma, meanwhile, had filed an appeal claiming that the Planning Board did not act within its required 60-day time frame. At the same time, Michael Rauseo, owner of the Yankee Clipper Inn, filed an appeal against the Planning Board claiming that it did not enforce the site plan review process.

The Board of Appeals, meanwhile, denied Roma’s appeal in late September, siding with Building Inspector Paul Orlando and the Planning Board and upholding the board’s adherence to 60-day time frame.

As a result, the house development has to follow findings and suggestions by the Planning Board in its site plan review findings. But Orlando said the building permit was issued Tuesday.

Local contractor Alan Battistelli said excavators are planning to start digging within the week. Battistelli — who is also a Board of Appeals member but did part in hearing Roma’s appeal — said the path through site plan review process in Rockport was a rocky one.

“It’s not an easy process,” he said.

The Board of Appeals also granted Roma zoning relief regarding the house’s height, even though Battistelli submitted plans to lower the height of the house by eight inches, making it 30 feet tall.

In site plan review, Planning Board members had raised questions over the way the house was measured. Orlando also noted in an August letter that he, too, had issues with the way the building’s height was measured on its slope, and that the projections did not accurately reflect the true height of the building.

But Orlando also noted in his letter the zoning bylaw does not identify a specific method to determine the average slope and there are multiple ways to determine the slope.

The town bodies determined that the actual height was 30 feet, 8 inches.

Planning Board officials were not happy to hear that the Board of Appeals had signed off on Roma’s height approval.

“The Board of Appeals, in our opinion, ignored the Planning Board’s determination with very little discussion,” Planning Board Chairman Hank Betts said. Betts said he wished there had been more discussion between the two town bodies, and the height issue should have been dealt with separately from the appeals against the Planning Board.

“(Height relief) was done in the way that was very inappropriate for what the Planning Board was dealing with,” he said. “It did not serve the public well.”

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.