The house that Robert DelPrete built at 320 Concord St. in Rockland looks beautiful. It has maple kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, a lofted family room, gas fireplace, and spectacular views of the eighth and ninth holes of a golf course behind it.
But it could face the wrecking ball because it does not conform to local zoning.
As the future of 320 Concord St. is being fought in the courts, it has become the talk of the town, with residents and neighbors debating over whether DelPrete is at fault, and whether the town’s actions are extreme. The story behind the controversial address is an interesting tale of small-town politics, a family feud, and one man’s unsuccessful attempt to flip a property for profit.
It all began in the spring of 2010, when DelPrete acquired the property from his father and uncle with the understanding that he could build a home there.
“I knew the lot was a little undersized,” DelPrete said in a recent telephone interview.
But he said he thought everything was all set because the town granted him a building permit. According to court records, DelPrete obtained the permit to build in April 2010, and the town issued an occupancy permit in April 2011.
DelPrete put the house up for sale; he said he listed it at $565,900 but did not get any takers at that price. Then along came the offer from Vinfen, a nonprofit organization that runs group homes for people with mental illness and disabilities.
In the summer of 2011, DelPrete said, he agreed to sell the house to Vinfen for $439,900. When neighbors Susan A. and Thomas J. Joyce learned about the pending sale, they also discovered that the property did not meet zoning regulations and filed a complaint with the building inspector.
After confirming that DelPrete’s lot in fact did not meet frontage, width, and area requirements, the Rockland building inspector sent DelPrete a letter on Oct. 4, 2011, informing him that the permits had been issued in error.
“I was shocked,” said DelPrete.
DelPrete was told he needed to seek a variance from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. But the board ultimately denied his request for a variance, because they felt DelPrete had deliberately misled the building inspector, according to court records.
“Mr. DelPrete knew significantly more than he told” the building inspector when he applied for the permits, said Robert W. Galvin, an attorney representing the town. “In fact, it was not a buildable lot at all.”
According to court documents filed by Galvin, two of DelPrete’s sisters have stated in affidavits that DelPrete was aware that a variance was needed to build a home on that land.
DelPrete took the case to Land Court, and in July 2013 Judge Gordon H. Piper affirmed Rockland’s decision to enforce its zoning bylaw.
“In the end, there will have to be zoning compliance for that lot,” said Galvin.
But it is unclear how that might be achieved. DelPrete needs an additional 3,733 square feet of area and another 12.57 feet of frontage to meet local zoning requirements.
One potential solution would be to expand the lot, which can only be accomplished by adding two sections of land from two adjacent landowners: his sister Carol Brigham and the golf course. DelPrete said he has had no luck striking a deal with either of them.
According to court filings, DelPrete said his sister told him that she “will not sell any land to him for any price.”
Another solution would be to move the house to another parcel. The remedy of last resort would be to tear the house down. So far, none of these options appear to be within DelPrete’s reach. According to court documents filed by Galvin, DelPrete “cannot even pay for the demolition of the home.”
For now, Rockland Town Administrator Allan R. Chiocca said the case is “still in a holding pattern.”
“The courts have continued to rule in favor of the town,” said Chiocca. “It’s been very clear that the land was misrepresented to the town. . . . It was the builder’s own doing that created this situation.”
DelPrete’s lawyer, C. Peter R. Gossels, said he plans to file an appeal. Gossels said he has evidence that other Rockland residences do not conform with local zoning, yet those residents have not been ordered to tear down their homes.
Gossels said DelPrete is “entitled to be treated equally to other people in town,” and by singling him out and punishing him for the town’s own mistake, the town violated his constitutional rights.
“It’s truly an injustice inflicted on my client here,” said Gossels. “If that house is torn down, what is the benefit? The town loses the tax revenue. The only ones who are going to benefit from that are the Joyces. Nobody else. The only one who’s suffering here is my client.”
Gossels added: “It’s really a very sad story.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.