NEWBURYPORT — The Institution for Savings has appealed the Planning Board’s recent decision to reject the bank’s expansion plans for its location at 93 State St.
The board voted 5-3 against approving the bank’s applications after 14 months of discussions and a 3½-hour meeting March 17.
The bank revised its plans several times, but abutters and some board members still took issue with the massing and scale of the proposed expansion.
The official decision was reviewed at the board’s meeting April 7.
The bank has since filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Land Court, challenging the board’s denials of its special permit and site plan review applications.
The lawsuit asserts that the Downtown Overlay District is “facially invalid as it violates what is commonly known as the ‘SCIT doctrine,’” according to a press release from the bank.
The appeal points to Chapter 40A, Section 4 of Massachusetts General Laws, which states, “Any zoning ordinance or bylaw which divides cities and towns into districts shall be uniform within the district for each class or kind of structures or uses permitted.”
Bank CEO and President Michael J. Jones called the board’s action “unreasonable.”
“As I stated immediately after the Planning Board’s decisions,” he said, “we firmly believe that the Planning Board, in denying the bank’s applications, was unreasonable, did not apply the law properly, and was arbitrary and capricious in its decision-making.
“Our applications met all of the underlying dimensional, use and parking requirements as required,” Jones added. “In good faith, we attended 16 or more virtual and/or in-person meetings and public hearing sessions with public bodies and neighbors; we presented extensive testimony by historic preservationists, architects and others; and we redesigned the project no fewer than six times to address neighborhood and commission and board member concerns, all to no avail in the end.”
Jones also called the board’s decisions “a grave disservice to all downtown businesses that hope to improve their properties in order to stay solvent and successful.”
In addition to naming the Planning Board and all its members, the appeal also names the City Council as a defendant.
“We are confident that the facts of our case will prevail in the end,” Jones said.
The board’s decisions can be found at www.cityofnewburyport.com/planning-board/agenda-items/draft-decisions.