GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 8, 2013

Council panel backs permits for Fort hotel proposal

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — Gloucester’s Fort neighborhood is one step closer to becoming home to a new waterfront hotel after a City Council subcommittee voted late Thursday night to support all of the required special permits for the project.

The City Council’s Planning and Development subcommittee’s unanimous 3-0 decisions on each account, means the subcommittee, headed by councilor-at-large and former four-term Mayor Bruce Tobey, formally recommends the full council to approve each permit necessary for Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo and New Balance owner Jim Davis — organized as Beauport Gloucester LLC -- to build the 101-room hotel on Pavilion Beach.

“...The adverse effects of the proposed use will not outweigh the benefits of it’s proposed impact to the city and the fort neighborhood...,” said subcommittee member Jackie Hardy, who also serves as City Council president.

The recommendation means that the full council could cast a final vote Tuesday after that night’s pubic hearing on whether or not to approve the special permits needed for the project. Those include motions for a lowlands permit, a beach deed, a special height permit, and a parking permit, generator noise plans, traffic plans and lighting — all of which the Planning and Development panel last night recomended for approval.

The votes from the three-person subcommittee at the Rose Baker Senior Center last night drew groans of dismay from many at the meeting, but motions regarding the deed to Pavilion Beach and Beauport Gloucester LLC’s seawall plans seemed to hit the opposition hardest.

Opponents have relied on a study commissioned by the Fort Community Alliance group that has most adamantly opposed the project. The study and report, written by Dr. Paul Godfrey, a UMass-Amherst emeritus professor of Coastal Plant Ecology, Barrier Island Management, and Plant Geography, found a wide variety of problems with the hotel proposal.

“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 Boulevard, and in particular the homes at risk of destruction with even a modest tidal surge,” Godfrey wrote.

Yet, Lester B. Smith, Jr., Beauport Gloucester LLC’s engineer and environmental consultant for the project, countered Godfrey’s study points at the subcommittee meeting last night, stressing that the project, to be 200 feet from any eelgrass beds, would have no impact on the beds, that the hotel building would protect Commercial Street from stray sand and positively impact the neighborhood, and that the hotel seawall would act as a barrier just like the one that exists now as part of the Birdseye building.

“That’s a seawall,” Smith said. “Have we seen death and destruction because that’s there? No.”

Subcommittee members said they looked forward to hearing more perspectives from every angle at the city council meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Kyrouz Auditorium in City Hall.

We will update this story here at gloucestertimes.com as more information becomes available. To have text updates regarding this story and other local breaking news coverage sent to your mobile phone, just sign up for the Times free text alert service on the gloucestertimes.com homepage. For full coverage of last night’s meeetng, look to tomorrow’s print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.

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