As some Fort neighborhood and city residents have started digging in against rezoning and a possible hotel at the Birdseye building, city officials are asking the company that owns and is looking to develop the site to preserve public use of Pavilion Beach.
Late last year, a group of residents filed a petition that asked Mayor Carolyn Kirk to obtain the deed or ensure public use of the Commercial Street beach.
Unlike either Good Harbor or Wingaersheek beaches, the city doesn't have a deed or title that allows, formally, public use of Pavilion Beach, City Solicitor Suzanne Egan confirmed Wednesday.
At the moment, several residents and companies own parts of the beach, and the city is working with Beauport Gloucester LLC to ensure public access of the section of beach it owns.
Egan said the city and Beauport Gloucester are working out a written agreement to preserve public access to Pavilion Beach.
"There's no real dispute right now," said Egan. "It's just the details that are being worked out."
Beauport Gloucester LLC, headed by New Balance founder and owner Jim Davis, a part-time Bay View resident, bought the Birdseye property from local developer Mac Bell last July for $6.5 million, and just put forward a hotel overlay zoning district proposal for the site ahead of plans for a hotel.
With that property, said John Cunningham, the company's attorney, comes ownership of much of Pavilion Beach, down Commercial Street from around the Chamber of Commerce building parking lot. The company includes the beach, up to the mouth of Beach Court, in its hotel overlay zoning proposal.
"We're trying to have an agreement with the city and landowner than confirms the right of people to use the beach," Cunningham said.
Gloucester's general public has used that beach for longer than most can remember, starting back in 1800, Egan said. For much of the last century, the city has maintained the beach and posted life guards on it. But there's no deed that reflects the city's ownership of that piece of shoreline.
While the city and Beauport say they're committed to ensuring public access to the beach, residents say they want that access to mean more than just permission to walk on the sand.
"The problem we may have with it," said Jeanne Gallo of Citizens for Gloucester Harbor, "is that it may say people have access to it, but access doesn't mean use."
Gallo said the citizens group wants the city to ensure residents can use the beach like they have for years.
"We want to be able to go to the beach like we've been going to the beach," said former City Councilor Ann Mulcahey, who represented the Fort neighborhood.
Mulcahey said residents began the petition to ensure that residents have a right to use Pavilion Beach.
Access to Pavilion might come up in the permitting process, said Councilor Joe Ciolino. He said a lot of residents citywide would like to see the deed for the beach in the city's hand.
"It would be nice to have something in writing concerning the beach so there won't be questions about who has the rights to it," he said. "
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.