, Gloucester, MA

October 18, 2012

Fort talks spotlight business

Beauport won't drop chance to contest noise, other issues

By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Beauport Gloucester LLC attorney John Cunningham told neighborhood residents Tuesday night that the proposed Fort hotel developer has no intention of giving up its right to challenge noise and smells around its proposed hotel site on Commercial Street — if they exceed city guidelines.

The issue, a core concern of some Fort residents and businesses as Beauport Gloucester seeks permits to build a 101-room hotel in the newly approved overlay district, came during a “neighborhood meeting” hosted by Beauport Gloucester officials at the order of the City Council’s Planning and Development subcommittee, chaired by councilor and former mayor Bruce Tobey.

Ann Molloy of Neptune’s Harvest, a fertilizer company across and just up Commercial Street from the Beauport and former Birdseye site, asked if Beauport would agree to drop any ability to make demands regarding other businesses in the Fort. The potential for the hotel and hotel guests making complaints about industrial and fish processing noises and smells — and seeking action to limit the — has been a concern of residents and business owners throughout the hotel’s approval process.

“Is there any way to put a clause in that says we won’t complain about smells and noises,” Molloy said, while local activist Marcia Hart said the issue was one of the largest surrounding the whole project.

Cunningham said Beauport intends to work with the businesses and the neighborhood and doesn’t intent to disrupt them. But, he said, the hotel should be able to complain if either noise or smell exceeds city ordinances.

“I don’t see why one property owner should forfeit their rights if a situation is egregious,” said Cunningham.

Residents and Commercial Street business owners met with Beauport Gloucester LLC’s development team at the neighborhood meeting in the American Legion Hall. Roughly 40 residents attended and asked the developer a series of questions ranging from the location of the emergency generator to the ownership of Pavilion Beach.

Former Planning Board Chairman Jack Clarke moderated the hearing, which was blotted with contention, and often forced both residents and developer’s attorney Cunningham to stay on topic with questions and answers. Cunningham was speaking for the development company headed by New Balance owner and Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo, who win City Council approval for the overlay zone in June and are now seeking permits for the planned four-story, roughly $20 million hotel.

Sandra Demetri, a resident, asked a question that residents and the city have asked repeatedly during the hotel’s approval process. “Who,” she asked, “owns (Pavilion) beach?”

Part of Pavilion Beach runs in front of Beauport’s property, and Cunningham said the company’s deed to the Birdseye property includes the beach down to the low water mark. But, he said, the company would hand the deed over to the city — once it’s able to build the hotel.

“As long as we can do what we want to do with that parcel,” Cunningham said, “we’d be ready to have an arrangement by which the city got the deed to that beach.”

James “Jimmy T” Tarantino, president of the Port Community Alliance, a nonprofit group that aims to promote marine industry in Gloucester, and adamantly opposes the Fort hotel project, asked Cunningham why Beauport Gloucester tried to purchase several properties, including a building owned by Mortillaro Lobsters that sits next to the Birdseye building.

“(Beauport) has tried to buy them out,” Tarantino said. “Is that your idea of working together?”

Cunningham said Beauport has talked with several property owners.

“We’ve had discussions with owners,” he said. “They’ve decided not to sell and we’ve decided not to buy.”

Peter Favazza, a Fort resident, asked Cunningham how Beauport would operate the emergency generator which stands about 20 feet away from his house at 10 Fort Square. He said the generator may come in under industrial standards, but was concerned the noise of an emergency generator would cause problems for his tenants.

“I’m directly across the street from it,” he said.

Cunningham said the generator complies with the marine industrial zoning standards. The Fort, despite its residences, is zoned marine industrial. The generator will only run when the power goes out, except for once a week for five to 10-minute tests, he said, adding that the company would work with Favazza to find an appropriate time for the generator tests.

Molloy also asked Cunningham and the development team to make a proposed gravel bypass road on its property passable for industry trucks. The company proposed the road as a way for the businesses and residents to navigate around proposed sewer and water improvements on Commercial Street.

“Our trucks can’t make that corner,” she said.

Cunningham said the infrastructure repair project is in the city’s hands. The city has hired a firm to handle the design as waits on the state’s response to an application for a $5 million Massworks grant. The design of the gravel road, which would be build after Beauport tears the Birdseye building down, is up to the city, Cunningham added.

Beauport, he said, plans to widen Commercial street by pulling back its property frontage. The travel lane, Cunningham said, would go from 22 feet wide to 28 feet wide at that part of the roadway

People attending the meeting also had questions on how the building would go up.

Attorney Michael Faherty, representing Mortillaro Lobsters, asked if Beauport planned to build the hotel on a piling field.

“If so, how long is the piling filed, how will you drive piles and how long with it take to drive the piles,” he asked.

Sandra Smith, an architect with Perkins and Will, the firm that designed the Beauport Gloucester hotel, said the company hasn’t settled on how the hotel will go up. One of the possibilities, she said, called for a partial piling field of 60 or so pilings.

“We have several designs,” she said, “one design had part of the site on wood pilings. The other side could be on spread footings.”

Beauport’s hotel would sit on the lot currently occupied by the empty Birdseye building. That building, said Smith, rests on a spread footing foundation. Smith said Beauport is still looking at its options for how to build the building.

Fort resident and former City Councilor Ann Mulcahey said she wanted to know how Beauport would prevent the harbor from flooding over the Birdseye property during the construction process once the existing building comes down.

Todd Morey, a Beals Associates engineer who worked on the project said Beauport will have a sheet-pile wall, essentially several sheets of corrugated steel set in at the edge of the building’s footprint. Those sheet-piles will sit higher than Federal Emergency Management Agency flood levels.

Residents also asked whether Beauport would be willing to reduce the 61-foot height of it’s proposed hotel, and how much traffic the hotel site would generate and how much parking it would need. Some residents suggested that the planned 146 spaces didn’t seem like enough.

Cunningham said the company’s working with its designers construction estimates.

Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.