The limited liability company looking to build a new hotel on the former Birdseye site in Gloucester's historic Fort neighborhood has extended the city an easement agreement that would ensure public use of Pavilion Beach.
Under the agreement, Beauport Gloucester LLC, which acquired the Birdseye building last July and is seeking rezoning of that and additional Commercial Street properties, would allow residents to use the beach as they have for nearly three centuries.
The agreement, states Sheree DeLorenzo, a partner in the project and operator of Cruiseport Gloucester, guarantees "perpetual" public use of the beach that is under Beauport Gloucester's ownership.
"We believe that Pavilion Beach is a wonderful asset for the city and the public and we fully support the continuation of its use as a public beach," DeLorenzo stated in a letter to the office of Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
The proposed easement, which now requires City Council approval, grants the city the easement for the price of $1 and "other good and valuable consideration."
"As much as the public uses Good Harbor Beach, or Wingaersheek Beach, they have the same rights to use Pavilion Beach," said City Solicitor Suzanne Egan.
That means, she said, the city will probably continue to carry out much of the maintenance on Pavilion from here on out.
Local officials said Monday the proposal prevents a legal struggle over public use of Pavilion.
"As far as I know, everything the city has asked for, the city has received (regarding the beach)," said Ward 2 Councilor Melissa Cox. "It saves us a long legal battle, and I'm grateful that Beauport conceded to our request."
A group of residents had filed a petition asking Mayor Carolyn Kirk to obtain the deed or ensure public use of the Commercial Street beach late last year. Since then, the city's been looking for some kind of public access agreement.
Beauport Gloucester, headed by New Balance founder and owner Jim Davis, a part-time Bay View resident, bought the Birdseye property from local developer Mac Bell for $6.5 million, and put forward a hotel overlay zoning district proposal for the site ahead of plans for a hotel.
With that property, said John Cunningham, the company's attorney, comes ownership of much of Pavilion Beach, down Commercial Street from around the Chamber of Commerce building parking lot. The company had included the beach, up to the mouth of Beach Court, in its hotel overlay zoning proposal.
Unlike the city's other public beaches, Good Harbor and Wingaersheek, the city found it has never had an actual deed or title allowing formal public use of the beach.
The city has, however, maintained the beach through its Department of Public Works, and residents have used the beach for as long as most can remember.
"It's a community beach," Judy Desmaris, a resident of Beach Court, said Monday. "For the people that live in the poorer sections of Gloucester, this is their beach."
According to the easement document, Beauport Gloucester grants the perpetual right and easement to use the beach for all "usual and reasonable purposes for which public beaches are used in the city of Gloucester."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.