GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 7, 2013

Hotel plan in 'home stretch'

Beauport Gloucester hopes for council green lights

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — The principals in Beauport Gloucester LLC, the development company formed to create a 101-room hotel on Pavilion Beach and the city’s Outer Harbor, are hoping to secure two key votes over the next six days that will deliver significant green lights for a project that’s been in the talking stages for a year.

Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo and New Balance owner Jim Davis — organized as Beauport Gloucester LLC — filed their application last August for the four-story hotel after the City Council last June approved a hotel overlay district that allowed for a hotel to be built essentially on top of the marine industrial zone that covers Commercial Street and Fort Square.

“This is the home stretch,” DeLorenzo said in an interview with the Times Wednesday.

The developers have worked since then to meet six criteria, including keeping with the character and social structure of the neighborhood, meeting traffic and safety standards, looking at the impact on the natural environment and considering the potential fiscal impact.

A third party developer reviewed the application and noted necessary changes, which DeLorenzo said Beauport Gloucester LLC has made.

DeLorenzo said she and her Beauport Gloucester partners are hoping to gain favorable recommendation tonight from the City Council’s Planning and Development subcommittee headed by councilor-at-large and former four-term Mayor Bruce Tobey. That recommendation would then go to the full City Council, where DeLorenzo said she also hopes to gain overall council approval for the project at a public hearing to be held Tuesday at City Hall’s Kyrouz Auditorium.

Tonight’s Planning and Development meeting is also at 7 at the Rose Baker Senior Center - not at Sawyer Free Library as initially announced. The council must also sign off on a variance for the height of the four-story hotel structure, which would rise at its highest point to 61 feet. Work crews from Windhover Construction were at work at the former Birdseye industrial site Wednesday constructing a simulation tower that would give residents and officials a sense of the proposed height.

Another aspect of the board’s consideration is a study of the marine and beach area in front of the proposed hotel site, called the “Godfrey Report.” The study, commissioned by hotel opponents, outlines a number of negative environmental impacts observed by the author, Dr. Paul Godfrey, a UMass-Amherst emeritus professor of Coastal Plant Ecology, Barrier Island Management, and Plant Geography.

Godfrey pointed specifically to the seawall proposed by Beauport Gloucester LLC, which he wrote is “significantly longer” than the wall there now, and noted that he believed the placement would be an issue.

“This not only would multiply the existing problems and cause the rapid total loss of the beach and irreparable damage to the critical eelgrass beds but would place all of the businesses on the harbor side of Commercial Street, from Ocean Crest to Intershell, all of Stacy Blvd. and in particular the homes...,” he wrote.

But Beauport Gloucester LLC has crafted a rebuttal to the report that the group will present at the meeting tonight. The rebuttal, written by Lester B. Smith, Jr., the team’s engineer and environmental consultant, will present findings contrary to Godfrey’s, DeLorenzo and her attorney, Michelle Harrison said Wednesday.

DeLorenzo said plans to build a hotel have grown stronger as she watches groups hold conferences in Gloucester, then leave to stay elsewhere — like Peabody, because no Gloucester hotel can meet their needs.

“They come in, they eat at my restaurant. I know where they’re staying. They leave to stay elsewhere and shop elsewhere,” DeLorenzo said. “It breaks my heart we can’t keep them in Gloucester.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.