GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 8, 2012

Hotel flap remains over Pavilion

Company, city still split on beach 'ownership'

Pavilion Beach has once again become a flashpoint at the center of Beauport Gloucester LLC’s request for a special permit to build a hotel on Commercial Street.

City Councilor Bruce Tobey said he’d like to make a quitclaim deed for the beach a condition of Beauport’s special permit. But, during a meeting last week of the council’s Planning and Development Committee, Beauport’s lawyer for the hotel project, John Cunningham, said the company would be willing to talk about the ownership of the beach — after it’s gotten the green light to build the hotel.

“We are open to an arrangement that the beach, to the extent we can put a hotel on it, becomes a public beach,” Cunningham said.

The city and Beauport – the company formed by New Balance owner Jim Davis with Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo to build what is now pegged at a 101-room, four-story hotel on the site of the former Birdseye plant in the Fort neighborhood — have disputed who owns Pavilion Beach since the company offered the city an easement for perpetual public use of the Commercial Street beach in the spring.

The city turned that easement down in March, saying it had prescriptive rights to the property because residents have used the beach and the city has maintained it for decades. But Cunningham maintains that Beauport’s deed for the Birdseye property on Commercial Street states that beach is part of the company’s property down to the low water mark. The city would have to test its contention in court to prove otherwise.

At the very least, Tobey said, the public right to use the beach is a matter of law. Residents have used the beach for years, he said, and that gives the city a case for prescriptive rights to the property.

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