Judge rules Inn at Shipyard Park work can move forward

Jan 6, 2022

MATTAPOISETT _ The Inn at Shipyard Park should be allowed to repair and expand its front porch, a Plymouth Superior Court judge has ruled, six years after the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the work. 

The Dec. 31 decision by Plymouth County Superior Court Judge Thomas F. McGuire Jr. follows a long-standing dispute with neighbors George and Maureen Butler about a proposal to expand the front porch of the historic establishment, located at 13 Water St.

“We’re gratified that it went in our favor,’’ said attorney Marc Deshaies, who represents the inn owners. 

The Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously agreed in January 2016 to grant a special permit to inn owners Nils Johnson and Andrea Perry to allow them to rebuild the porch and widen it by three feet.

This would provide more room between tables, easing movement for both staff and customers, and would add six seats, the owners told the Zoning Board. 

The owners also proposed raising the floor to make it even with the first floor, making the porch accessible to people with disabilities. 

The Butlers, who own two lots of land west of and adjacent to the inn property, opposed the special permit. 

“We’re obviously disappointed’’ by the decision, said James Rosenblum of Senie and Associates, who is representing the Butlers.

The Butlers argued in part that the expanded porch could lead to additional noise at the inn and raised concerns about the setback from the road being reduced from five feet to two feet. 

Zoning bylaws adopted in 1967 set the setback minimum in the area where the inn is located to 25 feet or the average of the setbacks of nearby buildings, whichever is less. 

But the inn, which was built in 1799 and is one of the oldest operating inns on the East Coast, was grandfathered from these restrictions since the business predates the regulations.

McGuire ruled that the Zoning Board decision to grant a special permit for the work was legally correct and “was both rational and reasonable.’’

The court agreed with the board’s decision because the porch “needs substantial repairs,’’ which would provide a “safety improvement.’’

McGuire also disputed the Butlers’ claims that the inn was the source of “obnoxious’’ noise, which they say makes operation of the inn a “nuisance.’’

The judge stated that, under the current ownership, the music is “quieter’’ than in previous years. Entertainment ends at 12:15 a.m. rather than 1 a.m. in previous eras, he said.

At times, he wrote in the decision, police would respond to noise complaints and “not hear loud music’’ or find that the inn was closed. When the owners were asked to lower the music, “they would always comply,’’ McGuire wrote.

A sound engineer retained by the Butlers to study the noise situation found the decibel level, on average, “about the sound of normal conversation or an air conditioner,’’ according to the decision.

“Few people other than the Butlers have complained about the inn,’’ McGuire wrote.

Rosenblum took exception to noise from the inn. He described sounds emanating from the establishment as “more disturbing than in the 60s’’ and said they “constitute a nuisance.’’

The Butlers have 30 days to appeal the decision, Deshaies said. “We’re in limbo land right now,’’ he said, and “subject to the waiting period.’’ 

Rosenblum had no comment on whether an appeal will be filed.