Salisbury Beach Property owner files suit against town

JIM SULLIVAN/Staff photoA tarp covers building debris earlier this year at the Ocean View Realty Trust property at 193 Atlantic Ave., Salisbury. 

SALISBURY — A beach area property owner sued the town, claiming it has conspired with local officials to keep a home from being rebuilt.

Ocean View Realty Trust filed a complaint against the town and the Salisbury Board of Health in Essex Superior Court on May 6.

The property, which includes a three-unit dwelling close to the beach and a one-unit “Sunday Cottage,” is 0.172 acres and located at 193 Atlantic Ave., according to the town.

The approximately 7,500-square-foot property was most recently assessed at $719,900 – a land value of $543,000 and building value of $176,900 – and is owned by Mario Iannuccillo Jr., the trustee of Ocean View Realty Trust.

The Iannuccillo family has owned the property since the 1950s and “this property and the town have a remarkably long and unfortunately complex history,” the complaint said.

Town Manager Neil Harrington said in an email that the town disputes the claim it has conspired in any way against the plaintiff.

“This property has been a well-known eyesore at Salisbury Beach for many years, and the town’s primary interest is having the owner resolve the current building and health violations,” Harrington said. “The town has exercised maximum patience with the property owner and will defend the lawsuit vigorously. In the meantime, the existing violations must be addressed.”

Ocean View Realty Trust’s troubles reportedly began in October 1992 when the Zoning Board of Appeals ordered that the buildings be torn down and replaced after they were damaged in the so-called “Perfect Storm” the previous October. The board’s decision was eventually overturned in 1993 and the property owner was given the go-ahead to rebuild in 1995.

There were then plans to remodel the three units in early 1996, which is also when abutters Michael Kobos and Donald Egan “began their serial attempts to prevent Ocean View from reconstructing their property” after their own home was completed in late 1995, according to the complaint.

Kobos and Egan – who has served on the Planning Board, which he chairs, since 1997 – made offers to Ocean View at the time to purchase the property at a reduced value of $265,000, the complaint said.

Ocean View rejected the offer and the complaint makes note of a letter to the town in which Kobos and Egan demanded that the building inspector at the time, Kenneth Sheehan, revoke the building permit.

Sheehan denied the request, the matter was appealed to the board and denied, and ended up in Land Court where the case remains active.

A number of complaints, amendments and appeals played out between Ocean View, Kobos and Egan, and various town boards and officials over an almost 20-year period, according to court documents.

But the Massachusetts Appeals Court eventually decided in favor of the town as well as Kobos and Egan in 2015, and nothing has been rebuilt on the property.

Ocean View found itself at odds with the town again when the Board of Health began investigating the property earlier this year. Court documents say Health Director Jack Morris inspected the property based on an anonymous complaint.

“Upon information and belief, his inspection was performed at the request or suggestion of either the town of Salisbury building inspector/zoning officer Scott Vanderwall and/or the chair of the Planning Board, Donald Egan,” the complaint states.

Egan denied Ocean View’s claim in an email to The Daily News.

“Since I have no first hand knowledge, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further,” Egan wrote.

Although Ocean View does not contest most of the Board of Health findings, the property owners have taken issue with a complaint about debris in the yard that is said to be causing a nuisance and possibly harboring rodents and other wildlife.

Ocean View worked with the building inspector, who allowed the property owners to fold a wall of the structure inward to cover it, then secure and fence it off, according to the complaint.

The debris is the remains of the pre-existing, nonconforming structure that had been secured with a tarp, placed on a trailer and fenced off.

“In other words, the Salisbury inspector mandated the very condition about which the board now complains,” Ocean View’s complaint states.

Ocean View fears that if it removes what remains of the structure, the town and neighbors will use it to bolster their claim that they have no right to rebuild, the complaint said.

But, if Ocean View does not move forward with removal, it would risk retaliation from the Board of Health, the complaint said.

“It is crystal clear that Salisbury has and does intend to do anything it can to deprive Ocean View of its rights with respect to its property,” the complaint said.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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