The latest rendering of the Rockport Harbor Hotel, which is being proposed for downtown. Credit: Courtesy of Town of Rockport

Work on a boutique hotel in Rockport is moving forward despite a looming appeal from a citizen’s group that is seeking to limit the number of rooms in the establishment.

The group, Friends of Rockport, is seeking to overturn the Rockport Planning Board’s approval of the project, or at least force the developers to reduce the number of guest rooms in the proposed Rockport Harbor Hotel from 26 to 20, in keeping with a referendum that was approved by voters in August. The project was approved on Feb. 27.

The Rockport Zoning Board of Appeals will be reviewing the group’s appeal at its Nov. 17 meeting.

Since the referendum was passed after the hotel plans were approved, it will be up to the code enforcement officer to decide whether or not the hotel’s developers will have to reduce the room count when they apply for a building permit, according to Rockport Town Manager Bill Post.

“From our standpoint the building will have the same exterior, footprint and overall structural and mechanical design whether we have 26 or 20 rooms so we are just cranking away on continuing to finalize all of our engineering/design work in support of the build,” said Tyler Smith, Director of Property Management and Development for Bayview Management LLC, which is heading up the project.

Excavation work for the Rockport Harbor Hotel began earlier this fall and developers will be applying for a building permit later this month, Smith said. When completed, the hotel will be the first in downtown Rockport.

When it was initially proposed last year, developers planned to build a 35-room boutique hotel on the vacant lot wedged between 18 Central Oyster Bar and Seafolk Coffee in downtown Rockport. Aftering hearing concerns from people involved with the Friends of Rockport, the developer reduced the number of rooms to 26 and removed an entire floor, although the project would still consume the entire lot.

The planning board unanimously approved the project in February, but required that the developers maintain off-site parking for guests and employees ― a requirement that has since been worked into the plans.

But Friends of Rockport still oppose the project. The group was the driving force behind the ballot measure passed by voters in August that limits hotels in the downtown district to 20 guest rooms. An attorney representing the group said the limit should apply to the project since a building permit has not been issued by the town yet.

If a building permit is issued for 26 rooms, the group would likely appeal that decision, according to their attorney, Kristin Collins, of Preti Flaherty.

The group is appealing the planning board’s overall approval of the project on grounds that the board did not adequately take into consideration the town’s comprehensive plan, that a proper traffic and parking study was not conducted and that the hotel does not aesthetically fit into the downtown.

If the appeal is rejected by the zoning board of appeals on Nov. 17, Collins couldn’t say if the group would advance the issue to court. However, if the board overturned the approval of the project, Bayview Management LLC will likely take the issue to court.

The developers have not yet decided what they would do if they are issued a building permit for only 20 rooms instead of the planned 26.

“There’s not too much at this time we can do about it to reduce the uncertainty,” Smith said.