Julie Atkins, who lives in Gloucester's historic Fort enclave, said a proposed rezoning of a set of parcels along Commercial Street makes her nervous.
The proposed hotel pegged for the former Birdseye site and expected to follow the planned rezoning would chip away at what makes her home her home, she said.
"I don't want it (the hotel) to chip away at it."
But Jay Albert, a freelance photographer who runs Cape Ann Images, a local blog, said that while a potential hotel has to fit in with the neighborhood, revenues and other gains for the city are worth the development.
"Heritage alone doesn't pay the bills," Albert said.
They were among those who packed City Hall's Kyrouz Auditorium last night for a public hearing hosted by Gloucester's Planning Board and City Council's Planning and Zoning subcommittee.
The hearing derw dozens of speakers makng the case for an against the proposal. Planning Board Chairman Rick Noonan announced that the session will now be continued for rebuttal periods on Thursday at 7 p.m., again in Kyrouz Auditorium.
Both the Planning Board and Council Planning and Development subcommittee are weighing whether to add a hotel overlay zone to the longstanding Marine Industrial zone in a move proposed by New Balance founder Jim Davis and his newly-formed Beauport Gloucester LLC with an eye toward developing a 102-room hotel on the site of the former Birdseye plant.
Those arguing in favor of the change said the rezoning and the new hotel would stimulate the city's economy, bringing new jobs, tourism dollars and tax revenue.
Greg Verdine, a biotechnical entrepreneur, said that one of the companies he stated, Gloucester Pharmaceuticals, began as an idea in Gloucester, but ended up in Cambridge. He said the lack of a hotel and conference center was a chief reason for that. "There simply was not a site to do it here, so we located the company in Cambridge."
He said the hotel would attract companies like his. It's part of infrastructure that businesses need if they are to settle in Gloucester.
Those in opposition to the rezoning, however, said it and the hotel would conflict with marine industries in the area.
Daniel Hill, a Cambridge-based land-use attorney for a Fort neighborhood citizens group, said the zoning plan doesn't fit the area, and isn't compatible with current marine industrial uses.
While Mayor Carolyn Kirk told the gathering last night that the rezoning is "an appropriate use" under the city's Harbor Plan, Hill said a primary goal of the 2009 Harbor Plan was supposed to promote tourism and industry without losing Gloucester's heritage.
"It would turn all of the city's recent harbor planning on its head," Hill said.
"No one is saying that there shouldn't be a hotel, or that there shouldn't be a restaurant," Hill added. "It's just that this is not the place for it."
Citing an earlier pro-rezoning speaker who told the board the Marine Industrial zoning was a "dinosaur," Hill said, "then dinosaurs are alive and well" in the Fort and on the Gloucester waterfront.
The hearing extended beyond press time, but Planning Board Chairman Rick Noonan had told the Times Monday morning that the hearing could continue to another day, with the Planning Board's next regular meeting set for Thursday.
Noonan, who set the time for speakers in favor of the proposal to run out at 8:30, emphasized that residents who did not get a chance to speak during Monday's hearing can also submit their sentiments in writing to the Planning Board and, or the council's subcommittee.
Beauport Gloucester's rezoning proposal asks the city for a Hotel Overlay District that would build upon the current marine industrial zoning to allow hotel and hotel accessory uses such as a restaurant, retail shops, a parking facility, among others, on parcels running from 33 Commercial St. — the Chamber of Commerce building — through the Birdseye property at 45-61 Commercial.
One of the rezoning opponents, Nathaniel Mulcahey, who runs World Stove, said he's been looking for industrial space in the city.
Gloucester is the only city on the East Coast and possibly the nation, he said, that's both a green city and marine. He said the most important driver in luring industry to the city is industrial space. Rezoning, he said, would cut into already limited industrial space, he said.
"It's choosing to kill the goose rather than patiently gathering golden eggs, year after year," he said.
But the fishing fleet has diminished and diminished since the 1950s, said Ron Gilson. Now, the city has to change like other cities.
"This city cannot be held hostage to nostalgic times. We are clinging to a memory that is draining city coffers," said Gilson, an acclaimed local author.
Ann Rhinelander said the city needs to slow down and think about the project. This development, she said, isn't the only option — adding that the city should pursue industrial uses on that site that could provide more viable and solid opportunities.
"The (site) could provide space for several viable enterprises to bloom," Rhinelander said.
Beauport Gloucester's zoning plans, said John Cunningham, the Gloucester attorney who is representing Beauport Gloucester and who joined project manager Sheree DeLorenzo of Cruiseport in presenting their proposal, are structured for a modest-sized hotel, and could be developed to limit it to one the size of what Beauport's planning.
The overlay zone, he said, is not spot zoning, based on what it will do for the city. It's not, he said, for the sole benefit of the applicant.
Experts have pegged the project's investment at up to $75 million. DeLorenzo has said she expects the site to generate 100 new jobs in the city.
Beauport Gloucester also agreed to allow perpetual public use of the part of Pavilion Beach it owns.
While the City Council hasn't formally ratified the easement agreement, it is expected to vote on it in next week.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.