Garage Owner Faces Deadline

Oak Bluffs Building Inspector Issues Order for Revised Plan; North Bluff Controversy Buffets Mr. Moujabber

By CHRIS BURRELL

The owner of a controversial three-story garage in Oak Bluffs is now under the gun to file revised architectural plans for the project within the next 13 days, or else face official pressure to demolish the backyard building.

Oak Bluffs building inspector Richard Mavro this week issued the Sept. 30 deadline to Joseph Moujabber, an Oak Bluffs businessman whose construction project touched off a storm of protests from neighbors in the North Bluff - a downtown neighborhood under consideration for inclusion in the town historic district.

Town administrator Casey Sharpe informed the board of selectmen Tuesday of Mr. Mavro's letter.

"In a directive from the building inspector to the owner, he has until Sept. 30 to make a new plan," she said.

A new plan will have to go before the Copeland Plan District Review Board, now that the North Bluff is part of the district of critical planning concern (DCPC).

In July, Mr. Moujabber's Boston attorney, Bruce Barnett, told members of the zoning board of appeals that his client wanted to move the building 10 feet to the east away from abutting lot lines and attach it to the five-bedroom bungalow on Seaview avenue extension.

Mr. Barnett said a plan would be ready within a week but then withdrew his application, saying he needed more time. Mr. Barnett did not return telephone calls from the Gazette yesterday.

But if Mr. Moujabber and his lawyer fail to offer a new plan to the town by the end of the month, at least one selectman wants the building torn down.

"It would be up to the rest of the board, but I believe the structure should come down," said selectman and board chairman Roger Wey.

In July, the zoning board of appeals voted unanimously to declare the building illegal while also upholding the revocation of the building permit.

Mr. Moujabber is already appealing that action in superior court, his attorney arguing that the original permit granted by Mr. Mavro last November was legal.

But Oak Bluffs town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport has repeatedly told selectmen that the building permit should have never been issued to Mr. Moujabber.

Invited to clarify the legal issues, Mr. Rappaport explained to selectmen last month that Mr. Mavro interpreted an application for a garage replacement as a residential structure, not an accessory structure, under the zoning bylaws.

The distinction made a huge difference. As a residential structure, Mr. Mavro reasoned that the new building would be set further away from the neighboring lot lines and, consequently, less nonconforming than the preexisting building, a 240-square-foot garage.

But bylaws governing accessory structures are stricter and would have given Mr. Mavro the right to deny the application.

Instead, the permit went through, and Mr. Moujabber ended up building something that looks like a triple-decker condominium fitted with sliding glass doors and porch decks.

Last March, neighbors erupted in anger over the building, quickly mounting a protest. Mr. Mavro issued a cease-and-desist order on the project, then revoked the permit in May after Mr. Rappaport drafted a legal opinion, concluding the original permit was wrongly granted.

Mr. Moujabber appealed the revocation to the zoning board, setting the stage for back-to-back hearings in July that drew crowds of more than 70 people.

Zoning board chairman Gail Barmakian - who is also a lawyer - was unremitting in her questioning of Mr. Barnett, repeatedly asking how a garage replacement mushroomed into a 3,000-square-foot building.

Mr. Moujabber, who owns and operates Nancy's Restaurant in Oak Bluffs with his cousin Douglas Abdelnour Jr., stated on his building permit application last fall that the construction project was for storage purposes only and would cost just $22,000.

Mr. Barnett admitted in July that the project actually has cost Mr. Moujabber 10 times the original amount stated on the application - $200,000. Zoning board members suggested Mr. Moujabber had perjured himself in the process.

"He was hopeful it would eventually be approved for more than storage," Mr. Barnett told the zoning board.

"Isn't that a little speculative on his part? Our bylaws don't allow for it. He hasn't lived there five years, not one day," said Ms. Barmakian.

"He wanted to build it once," replied Mr. Barnett.

Mr. Moujabber purchased the five-bedroom bungalow at 10 Seaview avenue extension three years ago for $405,000.

This week, selectman Kerry Scott questioned whether Mr. Mavro should sit on the seven-member Copeland review board since he issued the original building permit to Mr. Moujabber back in November.

"I have some concerns about Dick Mavro on this committee," she said, adding that the building inspector should consider recusing himself from any hearing involving the Moujabber project in the North Bluff.