PROVINCETOWN — The zoning board of appeals has denied a proposal from the owners of the Foxberry Inn to add a third story with six guest rooms. At a public hearing on Sept. 21, two members voted to give the owners a permit to expand, and three were opposed.
Owners Matt Verge and Dan Spinello bought the property at 29 Bradford St. Extension, located in a Residential-1 zone, in 2019. The inn currently has 12 guest rooms; that number would have increased to 18. The innkeepers’ attorney, Robin Reid, initially presented the plan in late spring, saying Verge and Spinello needed to expand if the inn was to survive financially.
In an email following the denial, Verge expressed his disappointment: “While we are grateful for the time and attention of the zoning board, we respectfully disagree with their decision and feel that they have not supported our small business, and that they did not adequately consider the devastating impact of their decision on us, our business, and the message it sends to other small business owners.”
Verge said that the board “may have overlooked the alarming trend of loss of hotel rooms in Provincetown, which their decision makes only worse.” His email included a list of 227 rooms lost over the last 20 years.
Attorney Reid said the innkeepers would now “consider all options,” but state law prohibits the same proposal from coming back before the permitting authority for two years.
Condominium owners at Harbor Hill and Herring Cove Village sent letters and attended hearings to voice their opposition to the Foxberry expansion, saying an additional floor would block their light, spoil their view, and lower property values. They argued the addition would make the inn too big for their residential neighborhood.
Reid withdrew the original proposal in early April before the ZBA took a vote when it became clear she didn’t have the required supermajority. At least four of five votes are needed to issue a special permit to expand.
Reid submitted essentially the same plan for a third story with six rooms in early August. The lawyer pointed out that the expansion kept the motel building within its current footprint, so that setbacks from the lot lines would remain unchanged. But those setbacks are already tight. The distance from the building to Point Street is 1.4 feet rather than the 30 feet required by the zoning bylaws. The side yard setback is 3.5 feet instead of the required 15.
The project would have required a special permit for expanding a pre-existing, nonconforming building and for the size of the expansion, since the new building would have been larger than the town’s bylaws allow by right. The project also would have required a waiver of the town’s parking space requirement.
During the Sept. 21 hearing, Reid said the chief concern voiced by neighbors in April had been their potential loss of views. She then showed a series of photos taken by drone of current views from the Harbor Hill units at 41 Bradford St. Extension and future views if the expansion were built. Those photos, she said, showed that adding a third floor would have no significant effect.
“There’s no way to increase guest rooms without increasing size,” said Reid. Without an expansion, Verge and Spinello might make it through a season or two but likely no more, the attorney said.
Board member Steven Latasa-Nicks supported the plan. “For me, the scale here fits within the scale of what we’re seeing in the neighborhood,” he said. “I have a lot of concerns about the viability of businesses in town, and I can understand that without expansion this business becomes not viable.”
ZBA chair Jeremy Callahan told Reid he didn’t expect public comment to vary much from what was said at the hearings in the spring. “In general, I don’t see any substantial differences between this application and the previous one,” he said.
Member Robert Nee, who had raised concerns during the spring hearings about handicapped accessibility to the third floor, brought that issue up again. Reid said a unit on the first floor will be made accessible. An elevator would have to be installed to create full accessibility on the upper levels, she said, which would be too expensive.
Vice chair Peter Okun didn’t agree with Reid’s claim that the expansion fit into the neighborhood. “I think building this thing up is just crowding people in, and that’s basically what the whole scale bylaw is all about,” Okun said. “The neighborhood doesn’t deserve to be crowded.”
The neighbors agreed.
Harbor Hill resident Carolyn Westmark argued that Reid hadn’t said what elevation the drone took its photos from. “I can tell you for a fact that it will be 50 feet above sea level to the peak of that roof,” she said. “And unless they’re going to make a transparent hotel, or I’m 10 feet tall, I will not be seeing over that.”
Anthony Yeager, who lives at 30 Bradford St. Extension, pleaded with the board to deny the application. “Are six more guest rooms worth the destruction of residents’ safeguards and the apparent disregard of the economic value we bring to the town?” he asked.
In an Oct. 2 email to the Independent, Verge said he thought neighborhood opposition had waned. He wrote that far fewer letters opposing the project had been sent for the September hearing compared to what had come in last spring. He said that was the result of reaching out to the neighborhood.
Verge added that a handful refused to discuss the proposal with him and Spinello. He claimed one particularly outspoken property owner had harassed guests of the inn and even used an air horn to create a nuisance. During the Sept. 21 hearing, Reid said a neighbor had stolen building materials from her client’s property, and that relations between that neighbor and the applicants “have been quite sour.”
Last spring, the neighbors had similar complaints about the inn owners, who they said had aimed spotlights and hung chimes and a cowbell to express frustration with their objections.
At the April hearing, attorney Reid said that Spinello had apologized to the neighbors and said, in trying to engage them, that he “went about it in a bad way.”
“Since our initial application, we have met with our neighbors to collaborate and listen to their concerns, and we have made changes to our plans in order to address as many of their concerns as possible,” he said.
Latasa-Nicks and Daniel Wagner voted to grant the special permit; Callahan, Okun, and Nee were opposed.