Rockport Harbor Hotel appellants continue Planning Board action, despite statement of withdrawal from further litigation

Fri, 05/27/2022 - 11:00am

    ROCKPORT — Despite a public letter issued May 23 from the Friends of Rockport announcing their withdrawal from further litigation related to the Rockport Harbor Hotel, it was clarified May 26 that the Friends would be continuing their appeal of the town’s Planning Board decision approving the hotel project.

    Furthermore, one Rockport resident, John Priestley, is independently staying the course. He is neither withdrawing from the appeal of the Planning Board decision to uphold its approval of the hotel project nor the appeal that the Rockport Code Enforcement Officer erred in issuing a construction permit issued in April for the Rockport Harbor Hotel construction.

    The ZBA is to meet June 2 to continue hearing the appeal concerning the Rockport Planning Board’s decision. (Find the supporting documents here)

    On May 26, Attorney Kristin Collins, sent the following letter to the Rockport Zoning Board of Appeals, via that body’s attorney Leah Ruchin:

    Dear Leah:

    I am writing regarding the separate appeals that are pending before the Rockport Board of Appeals regarding (1) the Planning Board’s decision on remand from the Superior Court; and (2) the Code Enforcement Officer’s issuance of a building permit for the 20-room hotel.  

    Appellants Friends of Rockport wish to withdraw the appeal of the building permit which they filed on April 26, 2022, and waive any right to hearing or decision on that appeal.  Mr. Priestley at this time is not withdrawing from that appeal.  

    The appellants do not withdraw the appeal of the Planning Board’s decision, which was heard by the Board of Appeals on May 10, 2022.  They respectfully request that the Board proceed to a final decision on that appeal.

    Collins is with the firm Preti Flaherty, with offices in Augusta and Portland. Ruchin is with the Portland-based firm Drummond Woodsum.

    Priestley and Collins collectively declined to comment further.

    Clare Tully, Rockport resident and member of the Friends of Rockport, said May 27: “FOR is withdrawing from any further litigation, like the appeal of the building permit. FOR also will not pursue any new lawsuits regarding the hotel, so we will not file an appeal with the Maine Supreme Court. The purpose of our letter was to announce FOR's withdrawal and explain the context for it, having achieved our primary goals.”

    Both have been with the case for some time — Collins since 20 Central LLC first filed its site plan application with the Town of Rockport in 2019 to build a hotel on Central Street in Rockport Village, and Ruchin since last winter, when the town head the second ZBA appeal of the Planning Board’s project approval.

    The opposition to the hotel construction and the town’s process by which it approved permits has been underway since the Planning Board first began reviewing the project.

    Currently, the two appeals are working their way through the municipal process.

    On April 26, the municipal Code Enforcement Officer’s second issuance of a building permit dated April 1 to Rockport Harbor Hotel was appealed by the group Friends of Rockport and resident John Priestley.

    Earlier, on March 7, the same appellants filed an appeal of the Rockport Planning Board’s findings of fact, which had been signed at a meeting held subsequent to a court order that the board review certain review aspects of the hotel plans.

    Through the different appeals and lawsuits filed in Knox County Superior Court, Priestley has filed separately from the Friends of Rockport.

    The March 7 appeal contended that the Planning Board should not have held a site visit and should not have received or considered new evidence related to scenic view or architectural harmony.

    There are an additional seven points being appealed, including findings on scenic view, which is one of the considerations required by the architectural harmony standards of the land use ordinance.

    In an April 11 letter to the ZBA,  Collins wrote that the March 7 appeal must be remanded back the Rockport Planning Board, because the ZBA, “cannot property parse the Planning Board’s findings on remand to separate the former record from the new evidence...”

    In the April 26 appeal, Collins argued that the CEO erred in issuing a building permit April 1 because the hotel project itself was not in conformance with a May 2020 site plan approval.

    Meanwhile, construction of the Rockport Harbor Hotel, with 20 rooms, continues, and the LLC principals, Tyler, Stuart and Maryann Smith, hope to have the hotel open for business in spring 2023.

    Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at; 207-706-7757