The owner of a historic Coast Guard boathouse in Hull said he is prepared to raze the building if he cannot get the necessary town permits in time to meet an April 1 court deadline.
“I’m just trying to save this beautiful building,” said owner Michael McDevitt, of 125 Main Street Trust, who accused town officials of “stalling so I can’t get the permits in time.”
The boathouse is at the center of a court battle in which the town claims that McDevitt, in violation of the town’s zoning bylaw, did not obtain a building permit to move the boathouse onto his property in July 2019.
On Dec. 19, 2019, the town filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to have the building removed from the property until all the necessary permits are obtained. That motion was granted by a judge on Jan. 13.
In its legal motion, the town also claimed that the building’s presence is in violation of the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act and that the building is in poor condition.
Specifically, the town is arguing that the building is dilapidated and endangers public safety, saying: “Parts of the building are falling apart and other parts are caving in. In addition, debris and wood have blown off the building and landed in different locations in the surrounding area. However, the defendants’ structural engineer believes that the building is safe and in good condition.”
As the building’s new owner, McDevitt said he plans to restore it and repurpose it as a museum of Coast Guard lifesaving history.
He and Stephanie Aprea are listed as trustees of the 125 Main Street Trust and owners of the 30-by-60-foot boathouse. On Feb. 25, Aprea went before the town’s Conservation Commission to obtain approval of a Notice of Intent to construct a foundation on which the boathouse would sit.
However, McDevitt said the town’s legal counsel, James Lampke, did not appear at the meeting, so the hearing was continued – to later in March.
“Every time I go to the Conservation Commission, the town’s lawyer does not show up. It’s very frustrating,” McDevitt said.
Lampke, in an email to the Times, said, “I was not at the ConCom meeting last week and thus cannot comment on what may or may not have occurred.”
McDevitt and Aprea also are seeking site-plan approval from the town’s Planning Board, as well as a building permit. “If they get approvals, it has to go to the Building Department,” said Hull Building Commissioner Bart Kelly. “They can technically apply [for site-plan approval], but it will be subject to change.”
The 1,793-square-foot boathouse, built around 1936, was previously part of the Chatham Coast Guard station. The building once housed the famous CG36500 motor lifeboat used to rescue the crew of the Pendleton on Feb. 18, 1952.
The 30-foot-tall building was moved to Quincy in 2009. In July 2019, McDevitt had the boathouse moved by a barge from Quincy across the bay and deposited at 125 Main St. with the use of a crane.
Several other businesses are located at 125 Main St., including a Boston Harbor Island tour business, Acushnet Marine, and Jo’s Nautical Bar.
On Aug. 27, 2019, the Conservation Commission issued an enforcement order to McDevitt, which stated that the placement of the building violated state and local regulations.
The town issued noncriminal disposition tickets, including more than $49,000 in fines against McDevitt. Although he appealed the fines in Hingham District Court, the town has since withdrawn “some of the fines,” the town’s motion notes.
In the meantime, Town Manager Philip Lemnios declined to comment on the matter because it is unresolved. “As a general rule, we will not comment on issues if the matter is involved in an ongoing dispute,” he said. “The court ruling speaks for itself, and there are certain actions that must be completed by April 1. It would be premature to comment on this until that deadline has passed.”
McDevitt believes that the controversy stems from the fact that “I didn’t ask permission” to move the boathouse to Hull. He said that town officials also appear to be holding up a peer review that is required for the project to move forward. He told the Times he plans to start a local petition drive to save the building.