Three Stories, Balconies, a Roof Deck: A Garage Project Stirs the
North Bluff


When he applied for a building permit last fall, Joseph G. Moujabber
told the Oak Bluffs building inspector he was replacing an old one-car
garage in his backyard. It would cost just $22,000 to build and would be
used for storage space only, the application states.

But almost five months later, the building under construction
- three stories tall with balconies and a roof deck - looks
more like a Florida condo than a garage.

Now the neighbors are threatening legal action, the town historic
commission is talking and the zoning board of appeals has scheduled a
hearing for next month.

The town official least interested in discussing the case this week
was Richard Mavro, who issued the building permit in November. Contacted
by the Gazette Wednesday morning, Mr. Mavro said, "I've got
nothing to say."

The construction project, in full swing this week, is going up on
Seaview avenue extension in the neighborhood called the North Bluff, a
section of Oak Bluffs that town planners say is worthy of architectural
preservation and protection.

Zoning board chairman Jane Lofgren told the Gazette this week that
the Moujabber project is set for a hearing on April 15 because a
neighbor has appealed the decision by Oak Bluffs building inspector Mr.
Mavro to grant the building permit.

"It was a very small garage, and it is a very large structure
now," said Ms. Lofgren. "It's definitely in our faces

Mr. Moujabber, an Oak Bluffs businessman, did not return calls from
the Gazette yesterday.

The question that some neighbors and at least one town official are
asking is why the project wasn't referred to the zoning board in
the first place.

According to records in Mr. Mavro's office in town hall, the
garage was a preexisting, nonconforming structure. Town zoning bylaws
clearly state that substantial changes to such buildings must be
approved by a special permit from the ZBA.

But Mr. Mavro simply signed the permit back in November and never
referred it to the zoning board.

The difference between the little garage and the new structure that
has sprung up in its place is staggering.

Mr. Moujabber's old single-car garage, which faced Pasque
avenue, wasn't demolished. It is now sitting on blocks in a yard
near the intersection of Dukes County and Vineyard avenues.

The new structure being built on the same site facing Pasque avenue
encloses nearly 3,000 square feet. The building permit states that the
construction will not be for habitable space, but a roughly-drawn sketch
on file in the building inspector's office depicts a building with
four balconies, four sliding glass doors and at least six windows. A
roof deck complete with railings is also shown on the sketch.

A flag flying from the pictured deck has the name "Doug"
written on it.

Mr. Moujabber is the cousin and business partner of Oak Bluffs
businessman Douglas Abdelnour. They own and operate Nancy's Snack
Bar, an established restaurant on the Oak Bluffs Harbor.

The connection between the controversial garage project and
Nancy's Snack Bar is noteworthy because four years ago, Mr.
Abdelnour and Mr. Moujabber added a second floor to that restaurant
under strict rules from the ZBA that it would be used for storage only.

By 2002, the two businessmen had appealed the zoning board decision
to superior court and convinced neighbors not to object to the expansion
of their restaurant to the second floor, a move that created 140 more
seats, a new bar and second floor patio for Nancy's. The
restaurant was founded in 1958.

Mr. Moujabber, according to town records, purchased the five-bedroom
house on Seaview avenue extension three years ago for $405,000.

Neighbors of the house are now angry about the construction project
happening in this thickly-settled, residential neighborhood.

"These kind of radical changes should be brought to the
ZBA," said Arthur Naparstek, a seasonal resident of the
neighborhood for the last 25 years. He has hired Edgartown attorney
Arthur Smith and is appealing Mr. Mavro's decision to sign a
building permit for Mr. Moujabber's storage barn.

Mr. Naparstek, who lives in Cleveland, Ohio, said he has also asked
his attorney to contact Oak Bluffs town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport and
request a cease and desist order for the construction.

Albert Read, whose family has owned an abutting house since the
1930s, told the Gazette yesterday that the new structure being built is
out of character with the rest of the neighborhood.

"We feel a commitment to preserving the area. What we present
along Seaview avenue is visitors' first view of the
Vineyard," he said in a telephone interview from his home in
Oneonta, N.Y.

The neighborhood is currently under review by the Martha's
Vineyard Commission as a district of critical planning concern (DCPC).
The Oak Bluffs planning board wants the area to be included in the
larger Copeland District DCPC.

"We want to protect the architecture in that area," said
planning board chairman John Bradford. A building moratorium went into
effect in the neighborhood last Thursday, the day after Mr.
Moujabber's building sketches were submitted to the building
inspector's office.

Oak Bluffs voters will decide at the annual town meeting next month
whether they want the North Bluff neighborhood to come under the added
protection of the Copeland District DCPC.

The historic district commission has also been considering the
neighborhood for inclusion in the newly formed Cottage City Historic

At the request of one of its members, Renee Balter, the commission
was planning to raise the issue of the Moujabber project at its meeting
last night.

"The process was definitely not followed. It should have gone
to the ZBA," Ms. Balter told the Gazette this week.

Meanwhile, the hammers are busy over at the corner of Pasque and
Seaview avenues. Mr. Moujabber's building application stated that
he would perform all the construction work himself, but the sign tacked
up on the building advertises the builder's name, Wangler