By Steven Fletcher
Beauport Gloucester LLC's proposed Commercial Street hotel overlay district — already recommended for approval by the Planning Board and the City Council's Planning and Development subcommittee — goes before the full Council for the first time tonight.
It's also picked up a new official backer — the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.
The council, said Councilor Bruce Tobey, who chairs the planning aand development panel, hopes to make its decision tonight,
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Hall's Kyrouz Auditorium. It's the third and final review of the company's proposal that would add hotel uses to the current marine industrial zoning at the Birdseye building on Commercial Street.
"I think it's reasonable to expect we'll have it done tonight," Tobey said.
The Cape Ann Chamber, based at 33 Commercial st., adjacent to the land targeted for the overlay district, has added its support of the change by a survey of its member businesses, according to a letter from CEO Robert Heidt.
In his letter to the Times — which appears in full on today's Opinin page (Page 9) — Heidt said that 80 percent of respondents to the membership survey were in favor of the overlay proposal, which would cover the site of the former Birdseye property at 45-61 Commercial St.
"The Chamber Board of Directors recognizes that there is a clear and compelling need for increased, year-round hotel capacity in Gloucester, particularly for business travelers and for larger functions such as weddings, festivals, and conferences," Heidt wrote. "The lack of year-round, full service hotel space has led to a significant loss of room occupancy to off-Cape facilities."
The council, Tobey said, will hear opponents and proponents in an alternating fashion, then will shift to rebuttals and questions. The Planning Board held three public hearings, starting on March 12 and ending on April 12 with the board's recommendation that the overlay was an appropriate fit for the area.
"From a planning perspective re-evaluation of the zoning in the area has been requested and is appropriate ... In accordance with the underlying (Marine Industrial) district regulation the site may be utilized for marine industrial use and commercial uses ... an additional commercial use, hotel use, may be adequately review and condition to both minimize impacts to the surrounding areas while providing a desired component of the diverse downtown harbor economy," the Planning Board recommendation states.
The council's Planning and Development subcommittee, voted to recommend the council approve the proposal last week. The proposed hotel overlay zone is aimed at opening the door to a Pavilion Beach hotel developed by Beauport Gloucester LLC, a new limited liability company formed last year by New Balance founder and owner Jim Davis, and represented locally by Cruiseport Gloucester's Sheree DeLorenzo.
The council Planning and Development panel made several changes including removing 33 Commercial St., owned by developer Mac Bell; allowing 35 feet of Pavilion Beach to remain in the overlay; and putting in language that forbids condominiums or other extended-stay units.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.
If you go
What: City Council public hearing on proposed Commercial Street hotel overlay district.
When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
Where: City Hall, Kyrouz Auditorium.