GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 20, 2013

Second 'brick house' inching forward

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — After weeks of public hearings and various meetings with different officials, a second controversial brick house proposed along Granite Street is inching closer to becoming a reality.

The Planning Board was supposed to issue a final determination and recommendation on the site at a meeting last week, but some final plans and paperwork have still not made their way to board members.

Some of the issues stemmed from miscommunication with the engineer for the plans, John Judd of Gateway Consultants Inc.

Alan Battistelli, the contractor for the project as well as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, told Planning Board members that Judd preferred details of the plan in writing rather than over the phone.

“He’s really being disrespectful of the Planning Board,” Chairman Hanks Betts said.

Battistelli said the house could not move forward without the final determination.

“How do you do a final plan when you don’t have a final decision,” he said.

Other issues before the Planning Board meeting revolve around relocating trees and pushing back the house to allow for more frontage.

Because the Planning Board did not receive the last of the documents and plans needed by the meeting last week, the final determination letter was not signed off on by the Planning Board.

Board members said the determination itself is largely completed, and only one member, Edward Hand has voted against it. Hand said Friday he would not go into details about his decision to oppose the project until the final determination is issued.

Battistelli said the site plan review process, which is required for houses greater than 6,000 square feet, has been anything but short.

“It was a long process,” he said Friday. “We thought it would wrap up a lot sooner than it did, many of those meetings were four hours long.”

The property, owned by Ron Roma, has come under fire by some residents who have complained that the house is planned to be too large — blocking a view of the waterfront — and that the brick is not consistent with the atmosphere of Granite Street.

Battistelli said two units on the site have already been demolished, with two more houses to be taken down, but the town has still not issued a building permit.

Planning Board members also raised questions on how the height of the building was determined and considered presenting a bylaw change at the upcoming fall Town Meeting about how to better measure a building’s height in conjunction with the slope of the property.

Betts said that, while the way the plans were measured is not against a town bylaw, it did add about 10 inches to the house, adding the slope is uncommon in Rockport.

That aspect of the final determination may be up to Building Inspector Paul Orlando.

“What we don’t want to do is reinvent the wheel,” Planning Board member Herman Lilja said at the meeting.

The final determination of the Planning Board and final paperwork by the developers is expected to be issued at the board’s next meeting, set for Aug. 1.

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