ZBA denies Hall appeal on Yellow House

Hall can appeal ZBA’s decision in superior court.

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The Yellow House, which sits next to the town hall, is under construction. — Brian Dowd

Updated Feb. 10

The Edgartown zoning board of appeals (ZBA) denied attorney Benjamin Hall Jr.’s appeal for zoning enforcement at the Yellow House. Hall was representing the Shute Building Realty Trust as its attorney.

At the Feb. 5 meeting, board members made a swift decision to unanimously deny Hall’s appeal.

“We supported the building inspector’s decision,” ZBA chairman Martin (“Skip”) Tomassian told The Times in a phone call Thursday. Tomassian added that since it was a decision, Hall was not allowed to speak or offer additional evidence.

At a Jan. 29 ZBA public hearing, Hall asked the board to overturn former building inspector Leonard Jason’s decision to not issue a cease and desist on construction at the Yellow House.

Hall asked for a cease and desist to be issued because the town has failed to place preservation restrictions on the property, which is required because the town used Community Preservation funds to pay for taking the property by eminent domain, according to the notice of appeal. “As of date of this notice, not all restrictions have been filed as required,” Hall wrote. “Accordingly, no activity should have been allowed to proceed without such restrictions having been placed on the property as required.” He also cited the need for Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) review of the project as a development of regional impact, and an alleged zoning bylaw violation because the new building is within five inches of the side setback.

In an Oct. 21 letter, Jason denied Hall’s request for zoning enforcement, stating that Hall was late in his filing on several issues referenced, and that the MVC did not need to review the parts Hall said they did.

MVC executive director Adam Turner told The Times by phone he was “satisfied with the process.”

Hall has repeatedly voiced complaints about renovations at the Yellow House. At the 2017 annual town meeting, Edgartown voters approved $1.5 million in Community Preservation funds and $1.5 million in town taxes to take the building by eminent domain from the Hall family, after repeated attempts to force the family to make repairs to the dilapidated building failed. The building sits on Main Street, next door to town hall.

Rosewater owner Christopher Celeste, operating as Summer & Main LLC, was picked to lease and renovate the property into a retail space, with apartments above. Construction is ongoing at the Yellow House.

In a letter emailed to The Times, Hall wrote that the zoning board did not take his submitted evidence seriously. “Evidence gets submitted, but it seems the selectmen-appointed board nearly always bends over backwards with prejudice to protect the decisions of other town boards and employees, no matter how ungrounded in fact or law,” Hall wrote.

The zoning board’s decision can be appealed in superior court. Hall wrote the Shute Building Realty Trust is awaiting the written decision of the ZBA before it can “properly assess the result.”

Updated to clarify Ben Hall’s role and to include comments from Hall. — Ed.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Once again a town does not seriously listen to what appears as a factual complaint and risks a lawsuit paid for by taxpayers. I suspect Mr Tomassian, once again, had another personality conflict you the taxpayers will ultimately pay for.

  2. Yes, being upset about the eminent domain taking of your property is your right. It should also be the right of the taxpayers and visitors alike to not look at a property in total disrepair on the main street. Was this because you have no concern for the property? Or could you not bear to part with the money required to maintain the property? Seems you dared the town to take control of the building and lost.
    Too bad, so sad.
    Time to take care of your other buildings or this could be a regular thing for you. Live and learn

  3. Since Ben acts as the family attorney the Halls don’t have to worry about the costs of filing frivolous lawsuits. It’s likely more suits will be filed by him in the future. Although he didn’t fare too well against the Campground, Stop & Shop, and the Yellow House.

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