Building Inspector Orders Demolition

Mr. Moujabber's Controversial Garage Is Now on Track to Be Torn Down Attorney Will Delay with Appeal

By JAMES KINSELLA

Push has come to shove in the long Oak Bluffs saga of the Moujabber garage.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Oak Bluffs building inspector Richard Mavro ordered local businessman Joseph G. Moujabber to demolish the three-story structure, built next to property owned by Mr. Moujabber at 10 Seaview avenue extension in the North Bluff section of downtown.

"It is my obligation under Section 10.1.2 of the Oak Bluffs zoning bylaws to order you to demolish the structure forthwith," Mr. Mavro wrote. "If you fail to do so, I will refer the matter to town counsel for appropriate legal action."

Mr. Moujabber's attorney, Michael Vhay of Boston, said he intends to appeal both the demolition order and a related earlier rejection of the structure by the Copeland Plan District review board.

Prior to the issuance of the demolition order, Mr. Vhay said, he already had planned to file a revised plan for the structure with the review board. "Nobody intends to keep what's there today," Mr. Vhay said. He declined to comment on prospective changes to the structure.

Selectman Kerry Scott, who also is a member of the review board, applauded this week's action to order the structure torn down.

"It is gratifying that the process is working," Ms. Scott said yesterday. "It's obvious that Mr. Mavro is taking care of business the way he's supposed to."

Ms. Scott said the order has powerful consequences Islandwide, in that it reassures Vineyard residents that the system to uphold zoning rules works.

"Yes, it's been painful to see Mr. Moujabber go through this, but it was more painful to see that structure go up," Ms. Scott said.

In November 2003, Mr. Moujabber applied for a building permit to replace an existing, single-story, 240-square-foot garage at a cost of $22,000. The building he subsequently built stands three stories and measures nearly 3,000 square feet.

In a letter dated May 11, Mr. Mavro revoked Mr. Moujabber's building permit. In July, the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals affirmed the revocation.

On Nov. 16, the Copeland Plan District review board denied a request from Mr. Moujabber for a certificate of appropriateness to attach the structure to the principal residence on the property.

On Thursday morning the Gazette requested a copy of the demolition order from Mr. Mavro at his office. Mr. Mavro said he did not know where the letter was filed. He said his administrative assistant could find the letter, but would not return to the office until Monday.

Later that morning, town administrator Casey Sharpe provided a copy of the letter to the Gazette.

The most recent public meeting on the structure, held Nov. 16 before the Copeland review board, drew 60 people to the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging building. People attending the meeting cheered the review board's narrow decision to deny Mr. Moujabber's plan to attach the structure to the residence.

Opponents of the Moujabber garage argued that the structure wasn't in keeping with what they see as the North Bluff's architecturally historic character. But Mr. Vhay and Mr. Moujabber's architect, John W. Priestley Jr., argued that the neighborhood lacked a cohesive architectural style.

Ms. Scott said construction of the structure had outraged residents of the town.

"People care passionately about Oak Bluffs," Ms. Scott said yesterday. "They don't want things to change past all recognition. This tells people it's a new day. There's a new spirit of hopefulness."