In Wake of Garage Flap, Ripples Widen
By CHRIS BURRELL
The hammers are quiet over at the controversial Moujabber garage in the North Bluff neighborhood of Oak Bluffs, but the political dust hasn't begun to settle.
Just over a month after work on the three-story garage was halted, neighbors in this enclave between the harbor and Nantucket Sound have now banded together into a homeowners association.
Meanwhile, one of the neighbors - a vocal critic of Joseph Moujabber's building - says he's now paying the price for his protest: Harvey Russell's 80-year-old mother was notified by the building inspector that she violated zoning bylaws because she allegedly never had a permit for a dormer and deck built on her North Bluff home more than 15 years ago.
Outside the neighborhood, political friction involving players in the debate over the embattled garage has also heated up.
* Building inspector Richard Mavro is coming under fire from a town board, the Cottage City Historic District Commission, for failing to refer projects.
* Mr. Moujabber's cousin and business partner, Douglas Abdelnour, Sr., turned up at Tuesday's meeting of the board of selectmen and called selectman Kerry Scott a scofflaw for failing to make her business on Circuit avenue handicapped-accessible. Nobody is overtly stating there's a connection to the controversy in the North Bluff, but Ms. Scott openly criticized Mr. Abdelnour and Mr. Moujabber last month for their track record with building projects in town.
Members of the historic commission were already faulting Mr. Mavro back in March for granting a building permit for the garage and not referring it to the zoning board of appeals for a special permit.
As for Mr. Russell, he said this week that the letter from Mr. Mavro counts as retaliation. "This is undue harassment stemming from my opposition to the nearby building," he wrote in a letter to selectmen (printed in today's letters to the editor, Page Fourteen).
Mr. Mavro did not return a telephone call from the Gazette yesterday seeking comment.
Back in November, Mr. Mavro issued the original permit for the garage to Mr. Moujabber, who stated at the time that he was replacing a small garage at a cost of $22,000.
Neighbors mounted a protest in March when they saw that the garage replacement had grown into a triple decker building with porch decks and sliding glass doors.
Then, last month, under increasing pressure from neighbors, the zoning board of appeals and town counsel Ron Rappaport, Mr. Mavro revoked the garage's building permit. Mr. Moujabber and his Boston attorney, Michael Vhay, are now appealing the decision to the ZBA, with a hearing set for August.
Meanwhile, the fallout shows little sign of abating.
The most dramatic example came Tuesday night when Mr. Abdelnour - who owns and operates Nancy's Restaurant on the harbor with Mr. Moujabber - arrived at the selectmen's meeting with a wheelchair-bound man, Alan Muckerheide, Sr.
Mr. Abdelnour pointed back at Mr. Muckerheide as he approached selectmen, speaking of the need for businesses to be handicapped accessible and the failure of a town official to comply with state laws for access.
"This person has been defying the law for four years and getting away with it, and that person is Kerry Scott," Mr. Abdelnour told selectmen as he handed them copies of a 1999 document from the state architectural access board. The notice from the state agency states that Ms. Scott should install handicapped access to her building before June 2000.
Selectmen offered no response to Mr. Abdelnour's charges, but chairman Roger Wey suggested he request that the matter be included on an upcoming agenda for the board.
"Let's see if somebody does something about it," said Mr. Abdelnour as he walked out of the council on aging building with Mr. Muckerheide.
Later this week, Ms. Scott said she had received a telephone call on Tuesday from the state agency informing her that a handicapped person had lodged a complaint against her business, Good Dog Goods.
She has requested a copy of the complaint. The Gazette also requested a copy from the architectural access board in Boston but has not received a reply.
Ms. Scott also said that her attorney had advised her she did not need to make her building handicapped accessible because there was not a significant change of use from a four-unit apartment building to a retail store. Furthermore, health codes prevent her from building a ramp over her septic sytem, she told the Gazette.
The complaint filed against Ms. Scott comes less than three weeks after she was quoted in a Gazette article saying that residents were worried about the construction of a third floor deck at Nancy's Restaurant because of the businessmen's history with building projects in town.
That history, besides the North Bluff garage, includes an expansion of Nancy's four years ago that sparked protests from neighbors. Mr. Abdelnour and Mr. Moujabber added a second floor to the restaurant under strict rules from the zoning board of appeals that it would be used for storage only.
Two years later, the two restaurateurs had appealed the zoning board decision to superior court and settled their dispure with neighbors, a move that created 140 more seats, a new bar and second floor patio for Nancy's. That expansion was never referred by Mr. Mavro to the Martha's Vineyard Commission for consideration as a development of regional impact (DRI), even though a 50-seat restaurant is one threshold for such referral.
Now the question of referrals not being made by Mr. Mavro has become a paramount issue for members of the historic commission. Last month, they wrote a letter to town administrator Casey Sharpe, citing two examples of building projects in the new historic district that Mr. Mavro failed to refer to them: a large deck four feet off the ground and the installation of vinyl-clad, single pane windows.
"The Cottage City Historic District Commission requests the board of selectmen require the building official to observe the following language of the district bylaw," stated a letter dated May 20 from commission chairman S. David Wilson.
Selectmen handed off the letter to town counsel. Historic commissioners are waiting on Mr. Rappaport to issue a legal opinion, forcing Mr. Mavro to abide by the new rules of the historic district and refer building projects to their board for review.