GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 6, 2013

Fort hotel plans facing key hearings

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — Proponents and opponents of plans to build a hotel at the old Birdseye property in Fort Square are warming up to continue a long battle over the property’s future, after a private court mediation about a month ago failed to bring the opponents to an agreement.

The developers, Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo and New Balance owner Jim Davis — organized as Beauport Gloucester LLC — are seeking a major project special permit to build a 101-room hotel facing Pavilion Beach, after the council last June approved a hotel overlay district that allowed the use within the marine industrial zone that covers Commercial Street and Fort Square.

Beauport LLC’s attorney Michael Murray, of Goodwin Procter LLP, emphasized that anything discussed in the mediation between Beauport LLC and plaintiffs in a prior case against the group, must remain completely confidential under an agreement between the two groups.

“Beauport entered into a mediation in a good faith effort to see if we could resolve our differences with the plaintiffs,” said Murray, whose law firm boasts offices in Boston, New York, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere.

Despite two full, consecutive days of mediation at the start of February, the continued opposition suggests the mediation was unsuccessful, a source close to one group told the Times.

The council’s Planning and Development Committee meeting, originally scheduled for Feb. 27, was continued to Thursday and is now slated to begin at 7 p.m. at the Sawyer Free Library. On that agenda are considerations of the beach and development agreement and deed and plans to discuss and review Beauport Gloucester LLC’s application for the entire hotel project, which the group submitted in August.

DeLorenzo said she is excitedly anticipating the meeting, since Beauport LLC, she said, has worked to solve the issues that a third party, hired by the city to review the application, pointed out after Beauport submitted their initial full permit application.

“I’m looking forward to it because it’s been under review since August and they’ve done such a thorough job with it,” DeLorenzo said. “We’ve met all the conditions, and they’re ready to make some decisions here.”

Also in the works is a City Council public hearing now slated for March 12 at 7 p.m. at City Hall’s Kyrouz Auditorium. Project supporters and still adamant opponents of the hotel plans will both likely speak at the hearing.

Laurel Tarantino, saying she was speaking on behalf of the Port Community Alliance, a group opposing the hotel plans, submitted a statement regarding the upcoming hearing and meeting to the Times Monday.

“We intend to participate, as all citizens should, in these upcoming public hearings in the hope the city will do it’s fundamental duty: to protect the city’s residents, businesses, and property,” Tarantino wrote.

The Port Community Alliance has provided city administrators with a copy of what Tarantino described as a scientific report developed by Dr. Paul Godfrey, “the state’s recognized expert on Coastal Zone Management,” Tarantino wrote.

Tarantino said the U.S. Department of Interior commissioned Godfrey to write the book on coastal barriers.

“Based on both primary field data and a review of historic documents, the report demonstrates that the seawall, as currently proposed, by Beauport LLC, ‘will cause the rapid loss of Pavilion Beach, irreparable damage to the critical eelgrass beds and place all of the businesses on the harbor side of Commercial Street, all of Stacy Boulevard, and in particular, several homes on Commercial Street and Fort Square at risk of destruction with even a modest tidal surge,’ “ Tarantino wrote to the Times, quoting from Godfrey’s book.

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