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Harborside Suites in Yarmouth, above, has received notice from town officials that migrants sheltered at the location have been there for too long, in violation of a local ordinance. (Photo courtesy Cape Cod Concerned Citizens)
Harborside Suites in Yarmouth, above, has received notice from town officials that migrants sheltered at the location have been there for too long, in violation of a local ordinance. (Photo courtesy Cape Cod Concerned Citizens)
Lance Reynolds

A Cape Cod hotel has caught the attention of zoning officials for sheltering migrants beyond the time frame allowed by local ordinances.

More than 20 migrant families have called Harborside Suites in South Yarmouth their home since last September, but the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals has declared the motel has violated a local bylaw that limits temporary stays to less than 30 days.

“We would move today if we could,” motel Attorney Mark Boudreau said during a meeting last week. “The migrants that are there, they are ready to move. A lot of them have work visas… They would like to get going so they can obtain work where they’re going to be.”

Building Commissioner Mark Grylls issued a violation notice to the motel – currently housing 27 families – last October, but he told the ZBA he had to have their blessing before he could start imposing fines.

Harborside Suites, on Route 28 in the popular summer vacation beach town, sought a reversal of the violation, pointing to state officials that had said that “emergency needs of migrant families supersede the occupancy requirements of local zoning.”

But ZBA Vice Chairman Sean Igoe countered that he’s not confident Gov. Maura Healey’s migrant state-of-emergency carries more weight than local ordinances.

In her declaration last August, Healey wrote: “To the cities and towns across the state, many of which have a rich history tied to waves of immigrants settling within their borders, I am encouraging their communities to keep welcoming those families who wish to resettle in all corners of Massachusetts.”

Igoe took exception to the governor’s wording before the ZBA voted to uphold Grylls’ violation notice. “She’s just urging the cities and towns, she’s not ordering us to do it,” he said.

The state Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities did not immediately respond to a Herald request for comment on Saturday.

In January, the ZBA approved Harborside Suites maintaining the migrants as Boudreau had told members that the motel heard from the state that the families would be moved to a “larger facility in the Foxboro area” that would “provide better opportunities for food and room.”

Motels that housed migrants in Bourne and Wareham, which Boudreau represents, have been “completely evacuated,” the attorney said. The future shelter for the Yarmouth migrant families, he added, is “within a 20-mile radius of Foxboro.”

“Unfortunately, the property did not pass inspection and had some code violations so they have not moved,” Boudreau said last Thursday. “Everyone is aware in the motel that they will be moving as soon as the property is ready.”

The exact date when the families will be moving out is unclear, but in previous violations of the Yarmouth motel-stay ordinance, the ZBA has given 45 to 90 days depending on the situation, Grylls said.

“I don’t believe we’ve had circumstances like this,” he said.

Harborside Suites is the latest motel or hotel to be thrust into the spotlight of the Massachusetts migrant crisis.

A 26-year-old Haitian national, living at a Rockland motel housing migrants, was charged with aggravated rape of a 15-year-old girl who police described in a report as “disabled,” on March 14. A Hingham judge found Cory Alvarez dangerous a week later and ordered him held without bail.

Taunton officials in February sued the owners of the Clarion Hotel housing migrant families in that city for providing living quarters to nearly 450 people, more than 350-person capacity. The suit seeks over $100,000 in overdue civil fines.

House Speaker Ron Mariano has suggested that broad budget cuts could be on the table when lawmakers sit down next year to draft the fiscal year 2026 budget, fueled by the historically high cost of running the state-run shelters.

With an expected $932 million tab this fiscal year and $915 million in the next to maintain shelters, associated services, and keep municipal reimbursements on track, Mariano projected that a range of other programs could be on the chopping block and put the blame on the feds and their lack of action in solving the migrant crisis.

In his fight with the Yarmouth ZBA, Boudreau highlighted the state’s “great expense” while arguing that the emergency declaration and right-to-shelter law –  homeless families and pregnant women must be provided housing in the Bay State – took precedence over local ordinance.

“To the extent that there is a question of safety and a question of the adequacy of the rooms,” Boudreau said, “the Commonwealth has at great expense provided food, shelter, education, medicine and medical care. They’ve arrived legally, and my client is simply trying to cooperate with the town and the state in getting them moved.”

Since migrant families arrived at Harborside Suites last fall, Yarmouth firefighters responded to a flooding at the motel in January, and a 6-month-old baby was rushed to Cape Cod Hospital the day after they took up residence, according to the hyperlocal Hyannis News. The baby had  “phlegm coming from her mouth, with blood-tinged sputum, according to radio transmissions,” the hyperlocal Hyannis News reported.

Town leaders assured residents last December that there were no active cases of tuberculosis at the motel after a brief scare, the Cape Cod Times reported.

Yarmouth resident Cheryl Ball told the Herald Saturday she is “very pleased” with the ZBA’s decision and hopes it creates a precedent across the state.

“It’s draining our resources,” Ball said of the impact the migrant families have had on the town. “They’re a burden on our education system because we have to pay extra tax dollars to support them in our schools. We have emergency services that we are providing to the hotel that comes out of our tax money.”

Gov. Maura Healey (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald, File)
Gov. Maura Healey (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald, File)