The Garage That Became a House

The long and twisted tale of the Joseph G. Moujabber garage in the North Bluff section of Oak Bluffs has come to an end with the bang of a hammer. Demolition began last week on the building that began as a garage but bloomed into a three-story home, all without a proper building permit. By Wednesday this week there was nothing left but scraped earth at the site of the garage mahal, as it came to be known. A new building will go up in its place, this time with permission from the town and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

Much of the story is now ancient history and many of the key players are gone from the scene, including former building inspector Richard Mavro, who resigned his post, as he should have.

So what was the Moujabber garage all about?

It was about a cozy relationship between a building inspector and an applicant — Mr. Mavro allowed the Moujabber “garage” to be built on his watch and there is no more to say about that except that it happened. And when Mr. Mavro finally revoked the Moujabber building permit, under pressure, it was too late to rescue his credibility. His actions undermined public confidence, because if this cozy relationship happened once, it probably happened more than once.

Often lost in the fray has been the role of the town. Once the problem was discovered, all the boards involved — including the selectmen, the Copeland board and the zoning board of appeals — behaved as good public officials should. In a very public process they took the necessary steps to defend the town zoning bylaws, both in and out of court, and to stay the course, upholding the demolition order even in the face of an opinion from a judge who ordered an entirely new review of the building by the Copeland board. The rules were many layered and complicated by many lawsuits and by the fact that the town zoning bylaw was poorly written in the first place.

But in the end things turned out on the right side of the law, and the town of Oak Bluffs deserves credit for taking action that served the broadest public interest. This was not a case of a widespread good-old boy network that had infected a town, but rather a case of one public official who had gone astray.

And now the case of the Moujabber garage is thankfully closed.