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Appeals Court upholds plan to convert veterans post to rug store

Gloucester Daily Times - 6/7/2024

Jun. 7—BEVERLY — A ruling by the Massachusetts Appeals Court has cleared the way for the Vittori-Rocci Post to be turned into a rug store.

By a unanimous vote, a three-judge panel said the claim by the owner of the building next door that the rug store wouldn't have enough parking was "weak." They agreed with a land court judge's earlier finding that the peak daily parking demand for the business would be only 29 spaces, "far less" than the 74 that will be provided.

The ruling is a victory for Landry & Arcari, a Salem-based rug business owned by a Gloucester family that plans to turn the building into its new headquarters with a retail showroom, rug fabrication area, and storage and office space. The Vittori-Rocci Post, a nonprofit Italian American War Veterans post, can continue to operate in the lounge on the bottom floor of the building while it finds a new home.

Miranda Siemasko, the attorney for Landry & Arcari, said Thursday her clients have no comment about their plans "at this time."

William Sheehan, the attorney who represented the plaintiff, said there would be no more legal challenges to the project.

The Vittori-Rocci Post, which has occupied the building at 143 Brimbal Ave. since it was built in 1956, agreed to sell to Landry & Arcari three years ago due to financial problems. The Beverly Zoning Board of Appeals approved a special permit for the Landry & Arcari project, which includes a two-story addition to the building.

Ernest Santin, who owned the office building next door at 133 Brimbal Ave., appealed that decision to land court. Following a trial, a judge ruled that Santin failed to offer proof that the rug store would have any affect on parking at his property, "let alone a harmful impact." Santin then appealed that decision to the state Appeals Court.

In addition to saying there is more than enough parking, the Appeals Court judges noted that any customer who happened to park on Santin's property would have to "crawl over" the Jersey barrier that he installed between the two parking lots.

Santin sold his property last October, but his legal challenge continued under the new owner, CEA Group. That's the same company that operates the Whole Foods plaza across the street on Brimbal Avenue. CEA Group has not said what its plans are for the office building.

The Appeals Court denied a request by Landry & Arcari to award it attorney's fees and double costs.

"Although we agree that the plaintiff's appellate arguments are weak, we do not find them frivolous," the judges said.

The sale of the Vittori-Rocci Post upset the family of Joseph Vittori, a Beverly man who was killed in the Korean War and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Vittori's parents donated the land, which was their family farm, on which the veterans post was built in their son's memory.

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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