North Bluff Garage Permit Is Revoked
Next, Abutter Vows to Seek Demolition; Owner Says He Will Fight the Move; ‘Somebody's Going to Pay'
By MANDY LOCKE
The Oak Bluffs building inspector this week revoked a permit for a controversial garage built in the North Bluff.
Following advice of town counsel, building inspector Richard Mavro declared the structure illegal Tuesday, six months after he originally issued a building permit, and more than a month after he ordered the contractor to stop work on the three-story garage.
One abutter said this week she will not relent until the building falls to a wrecking ball.
"We're very committed to getting this eyesore out of North Bluff. It's a giant boil on the landscape. We'll be watching this intensely and are spring-loaded to do what it takes [to get it demolished]," said Belleruth Naparstek, a seasonal resident.
Mrs. Naparstek's husband, Arthur, who led the charge to remove the garage this spring, died earlier this month following a battle with lung cancer. His widow will carry on, she said.
"The last thing my husband did at the hospital was host a conference call with lawyers and neighbors on this matter. In his very dear memory, I will do everything it takes to get that thing out of there," Mrs. Naparstek said in a telephone conversation from her home in Ohio.
But the garage owner, Oak Bluffs businessman Joseph Moujabber, is also gearing up for a fight.
"I'm not giving up. I'm going to fight it all the way. I didn't do anything wrong. I just did what the permit said I could do," said Mr. Moujabber in a conversation with a Gazette reporter.
"The town or the neighbors - somebody's going to pay for this," Mr. Moujabber said.
Last November, Mr. Moujabber filed a permit application with the building inspector to replace a single-car garage behind the five-bedroom house he bought three years ago on Seaview avenue extension. The work would cost $22,000, and the garage was to be used for storage, the application said.
Four months later, a three-story, 3,000-square-foot structure - complete with four balconies and a roof deck - rose on the site. Neighbors mounted a protest, hired a lawyer and appealed the building inspector's decision to the zoning board of appeals.
The building is nearly complete. The frame has been enclosed, and the Tyvek has been rolled. All but shingles and balcony rails have been added to the exterior.
As an illegal building, the structure cannot be occupied in any way - by tenants or storage boxes.
If the building inspector's newest ruling stands, a demolition order could be next. Mr. Moujabber has 30 days to appeal Mr. Mavro's revocation to the zoning board of appeals. If the board sides with Mr. Mavro - and town counsel's opinion - Mr. Moujabber could then take the town to superior court.
The controversial building has been before the zoning board of appeals since April. At a continued public hearing this week, the board and the neighbors' attorney, Arthur Smith of Edgartown, tripped over procedural problems; town counsel questioned whether the neighbor's appeal followed proper protocol. In the end, Mr. Smith withdrew the appeal without prejudice. This move allows him to return to the zoning board on the matter at a later date if necessary.
"The result my client wanted was achieved [Tuesday night]. There is no sense burdening the zoning board with the matter further," said Mr. Smith.
If Mr. Mavro does not issue a demolition order in the coming months, Mr. Smith will request the action. If Mr. Mavro declines to act, the request will then be made of the zoning board.
In an opinion delivered to the zoning board and the building inspector Tuesday, Ronald H. Rappaport, Oak Bluffs counsel, admits the town's newly revised zoning bylaws are murky. In April 2003, Oak Bluffs residents adopted a new slate of bylaw revisions, one of which was aimed at limiting the circumstances in which a property owner must report to the zoning board to alter a preexisting, nonconforming structure.
"It is my understanding from the building inspector that the situation before you is the first significant matter to which he had applied [this section] since the town adopted the recodified zoning bylaws. I am constrained to point out that [the section] is ambiguous in certain respects. Those two factors may have led, in part, to the present situation," said Mr. Rappaport.
In short, Mr. Rappaport concludes that the section under which the building inspector waived a zoning board review only applies to homes and not accessory structures like a garage.
Mr. Moujabber could have sought permission to build from the zoning board, but such a permit would have required a variance.
Oak Bluffs residents at the annual town meeting this year declared the North Bluff community worthy of further protection - adding the area to the already established Copeland district of critical planning concern. It is unclear how this new set of regulations would affect Mr. Moujabber's building.
For now, neighbors are looking forward to getting rid of a structure they say disrupts this visible entryway to town.
"Hopefully, the entire Island will be grateful to get that building out of there. It doesn't belong, and it's not the first thing people should see when they come into town," said Mrs. Naparstek.