Port resident files lawsuit over Fruit Street parking    

BRYAN EATON/Staff photoThe owner of 14 Fruit St. in Newburyport is involved in a dispute with the city.

NEWBURYPORT — A resident is suing the city, hoping to gain the right to create an off-street parking space next to a home he owns at 14 Fruit St. after he was denied by the Fruit Street Historic District Commission.

James Lagoulis, a Newburyport-based lawyer, has owned the single-family home since the mid-1980s and has rented it out for the past 35 years while living elsewhere in the city.

In January, the commission turned down a request filed in November by Lagoulis for a certificate of appropriateness to remove an eight-foot section of vinyl fence to allow for off-street parking between 14 and 16 Fruit St.

Lagoulis said he hopes to create space for a car next to the four-bedroom house.

According to city records, the house was built in 1850 and is assessed at $644,300.

In documents that are part of the lawsuit, the commission denied Lagoulis’ request because “providing off-street parking can significantly alter a property … Front yards and entry walkways should not be converted to parking.”

Commission members could not be reached for comment.

Lagoulis, who previously listed 14 Fruit St. for sale for $699,000 according to real estate listings, said he believed parking would add to the value of the building. He has since removed the building from the market because of the parking issue.

In its ruling, the commission cited the local historic district ordinance, which states that buildings shall not be constructed or altered “in any way that affects the exterior architectural features as visible from a public way.”

In March, the commission’s decision was deemed correct by an arbitrator, and Lagoulis filed a lawsuit in Essex County Superior Court on June 18, asking the court to grant back his effort for a certificate of appropriateness to remove the fence and create a parking space.

The suit was filed against the city and the Fruit Street Historic District Commission as well as Larissa Brown and Associates, who acted as the arbitrator.

On Wednesday, Lagoulis noted that the neighboring houses on Fruit Street all have off-street parking between them and that he believes he is being held to a guideline that is not being applied to everyone in the neighborhood. 

“They’ve enacted a guideline, and my understanding is that they’ve only applied it to me,” Lagoulis said. “The other thing I'm saying is that that guideline is beyond the scope of the commission’s authority under the ordinance. The ordinance doesn’t allow them to regulate parking, the ordinance allows them to preserve buildings.”

He added that “every other person has the ability to park beside their houses” and that he believes applying the guideline to his property without applying it to others is “problematic.”

There is a plastic arch, rather than an eight-foot vinyl fence, across the area Lagoulis hopes to use as a parking area, and there is no curb cut in the granite curbing. 

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