Oak Bluffs approves new Moujabber addition
In what may be the final chapter of the long and expensive battle over Joseph Moujabber's attempt to build a garage on his property on North Bluff, Oak Bluffs, the town zoning board of appeals approved a plan to demolish the current partially finished structure and replace it with a 1,589-square-foot addition to the home.
A measure of the tortuous permitting process, which came to involve five local boards, two building inspectors, several state courts, and nearly all of Mr. Moujabbar's neighbors, came after two hours of excruciatingly detailed deliberation before the ZBA this past Thursday night. When it came time to entertain a motion to approve the new plan, nobody wanted to make it.
ZBA chairman Kris Chvatal asked for the motion. No one spoke. He asked ZBA member Gail Barmakian directly, but she refused. He turned to member Joseph Re, who after a pause, and in a halting, reluctant tone, made the motion to approve. Board member Peter Palches seconded the motion "very reluctantly." The board voted 4-1 in favor, with Mr. Re, Mr. Chvatal, Ms. Barmakian, and Mr. Palches in the majority. George Warren was the lone dissenting vote.
Once the ZBA decision is submitted to the town clerk, opponents of the building project have 20 days to appeal the decision in Edgartown Superior Court.
From actual square footage, to the number of stories in the addition, to whether the first floor is a first floor or a basement, the two sides represented at the ZBA hearing agreed on very little. Edgartown attorney Martin "Skip" Tomassian represented Mr. Moujabber, who attended the hearing. He rebutted objections to the size of the addition by pointing out several homes and businesses in the densely populated neighborhood that he said are bigger.
Belleruth Naparstek, whose seasonal home abuts the Moujabbar property, disputed the size of the addition, and the way it fits into the neighborhood. "This thing is big, this is really big," she told the board. "Everybody has the right to build an addition, but if it were smaller, the viewscapes would be much better."
Attorney Stephanie Kiefer, representing the Naparstek family, as well as the Reid family, said approval of the project would completely erode the town's zoning regulations. "This represents a classic instance of McMansion," she said. "It would be a shame for the board to capitulate to the aggressive demands of the applicant."
The central question for the board of appeals was whether the new addition would be substantially more detrimental than the home that is there now. The home does not conform to current zoning laws, which were enacted long after it was built. The partially finished garage, which has been the cause of the long dispute, did not enter into the ZBA's decision.
The addition would conform to current zoning laws defining height and setbacks, according to Mr. Tomassian, with the consensus agreement of the board. The only grounds remaining for denial of the permit was the mass of the finished project, a subjective judgment of each board member.
In the end, they agreed the project was not more substantially detrimental.
Ms. Naparstek, while disappointed in the ruling, said it was made within the bounds of the permitting process. "It's good to see Oak Bluffs following the rules and regulations to the best of their ability," she said. "It's a very different Oak bluffs than what was here five years ago when this whole thing started. It was like Deadwood, outlaws just completely violating everything. So I actually think, even though I'm not crazy about the outcome, it was a decent outcome, an honest outcome, and I'm happy to see three boards functioning the way they're supposed to."
Mr. Moujabber, who said nothing during the deliberation, offered thanks to the board members as he left the meeting, and indicated he is eager to begin demolition of the current garage and begin construction on the new addition. "I'm ready to go," he said.
Timeline for a disputed three-story garage
November, 2003 - Joseph Moujabber applied for a building permit to replace a 240-square-foot garage at his 10 Sea View Avenue Extension property, and begins construction of a three story detached building with apartments and decks on the top two stories.
May, 2004 - After a written opinion from town counsel, building inspector Richard Mavro revokes the building permit. Mr. Moujabber appealed to the ZBA.
July 2004 - ZBA upholds revocation of the building permit.
November 2004 - The Copeland Plan District Review Board denies a certificate of appropriateness for Mr. Moujabber's plan to move the garage about 10 feet and attach it to the existing home.
December, 2004 - Mr. Mavro orders the garage demolished. Mr. Moujabber appeals both the demolition order and the Copeland board's decision to Superior Court.
April, 2005 - Mr. Mavro reaches agreement with the Board of Selectmen to retire.
February, 2006 - In a court settlement, Mr. Moujabber accepts the building inspector's decision to revoke his building permit.
August 2007 - Superior Court Judge Richard Moses annuls demolition order, vacates Copeland board ruling, and sends the issue back to town boards for further hearings and a more detailed review.
September, 2007 - Both the town and Mr. Moujabber appeal different parts of the court's decision to send the issue back to town boards. Those appeals are stayed while the boards conduct the review.
November 2007 - The Martha's Vineyard Commission accepts a referral from the Board of Selectmen to review the Moujabber garage. It is the first time in history the Martha's Vineyard Commission reviews a private residential development as a District of Regional Impact (DRI).
July, 2008 - Martha's Vineyard Commission approves revised plan for a 1,589-square-foot addition, including a two-car garage with living space above.
September, 2008 - Copeland board and Cottage City Historic District Commission approve revised plan for addition.
October 2008 - ZBA approves new addition