NEWBURYPORT — The Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously denied a High Street funeral home’s application on Tuesday to build a garage on its property.
Louie Hebbelinck, who owns Twomey-LeBlanc and Conte Funeral Home at 193 High St., hoped to build a 966-square-foot garage behind the funeral home’s main building, along with a turnaround area that has three parking spaces.
Board member Ed Cameron said he voted against the application because he thought the garage “would be substantially detrimental to the neighborhood,” citing consistent opposition from neighborhood residents.
“Practically all of the abutters were against it and thought it would have a significant impact on their neighborhood,” Cameron said. “It’s a pretty peaceful neighborhood setting, and the applicant didn’t seem willing to compromise on the size of the garage.”
When asked for comment, Hebbelinck deferred to his attorney, Lisa Mead, who could not be reached Wednesday.
The application for the garage came after another special permit application filed by Hebbelinck and Mead to build a 50-space parking lot in the gravel-covered backyard that extends about 50 feet behind the building.
Hebbelinck, who has lived in the funeral home building since he took ownership in 2015, said the lot was intended to make safer and more accessible parking for visitors, who have had to park their cars on High Street, much to the dissatisfaction of neighbors.
After abutters opposed the project, raising concerns about light pollution and vehicle noise, Hebbelinck and Mead downsized the planned parking lot to about 30 spaces.
But upon examining the situation, Jennifer Blanchet, the city’s zoning administrator, determined the funeral home had never obtained a permit to park vehicles on the property and that use of the gravel area for parking was in violation of the city zoning ordinance.
In a letter dated May 6, Blanchet asked Hebbelinck to immediately stop using the area for parking.
The board filed a decision to deny the plans for the funeral home’s parking lot, which Mead and the Hebbelincks have since appealed to Massachusetts Land Court.
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.