ROCKLAND — Longtime Rockland code enforcement officer John Root has submitted his resignation.

The action comes after Root has taken criticism over his ruling that a re-entry center for recently released prisoners was allowed in a residential neighborhood without review by the Planning Board.

In addition, neighbors have filed a formal appeal of his administrative decision to allow the re-entry house at 215 Talbot Ave.

Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root at a Planning Board meeting. Stephen Betts/The Courier-Gazette

Root referred questions to City Manager Tom Luttrell. The manager said Saturday that Root did submit his resignation but there was no specified date on it so the manager has yet to accept it.

The code officer reportedly said he would stay on until the city found a replacement.

Root was hired as assistant code officer in April 1995 and appointed code officer in February 2000. He had also served on the city’s Planning Board from 1991 to 1993.

Root has received praise numerous times for his efforts to work with applicants of building projects. He also been praised by city councilors for his knowledge of ordinances and his cooperation with them when ordinances are created.

The code officer, however, was the target of critics for his recent ruling that the re-entry house was simply a single-family house and an allowable use in a residential zone under current city ordinances.

At the June 24 City Council meeting, resident Kathryn Westra criticized the code office and its operations. She said the situation faced by Talbot Avenue residents was “eerily reminiscent” of what she and her partner faced when the code officer ruled that a group home for Coastal Opportunities on Limerock Street fit under the definition of a single-family home and was thus allowed next door to their home.

Westra claimed there was favoritism shown in granting of permits without notice to neighbors.

Coastal Opportunities is building an 8.900-square-foot home at 190 Limerock St. that will house eight residents with developmental disabilities. The code officer has said that state law is clear that such a living arrangement for up to eight people with disabilities is protected and should be viewed as a single-family home.

Westra said she has no opposition to the residents but that the massive scale of the project, the “clear cutting” of an acre of trees, and the constant jack hammering has forced her and her partner from their home.

Westra and George Stephens filed an appeal of the permit granted to Coastal Opportunities to the Rockland Zoning Board but withdrew it after she said they were unfairly painted as NIMBYs who opposed living next to disabled people.

At the same meeting, Councilor Valli Geiger said the code officer “with the best will in the world got it wrong.” Geiger said the re-entry house should be considered a boardinghouse, which would require review by the Planning Board.

Geiger has sponsored an ordinance that would require group homes to be reviewed by the Planning Board.

Root’s announced resignation comes three weeks after assistant code officer William Butler resigned. Butler, who had been with the city since December 2015, resigned June 7 to take a code officer post in the town of China.

On Friday, 18 neighbors to the proposed re-entry house filed an appeal with the code officer for the zoning board to review the code officer’s ruling.

“We are respectfully asking that the Zoning Board of Appeals … investigate and provide us relief from a use of the property that is inconsistent with Rockland City Zoning,” the letter from the residents states.

The appeal claims that the re-entry house does not fit under the definition of a single-family house since the owner will not be living there and it is a business where services are provided.

The definition of family in Rockland’s ordinance concerning single-family homes currently also allows up to four nonrelated people to live in a residence.


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