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March 12, 2013

Final hearing tonight on Fort hotel

Tonight’s City Council meeting could mark the end of a months-long application process to bring a hotel to Gloucester’s Fort neighborhood, when councilors take a vote on whether to approve the needed special permits that now come with formal recommendations from the council’s Planning and Development subcommittee.

The council panel unanimously approved all necessary permits for the Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo and New Balance owner Jim Davis — organized as Beauport Gloucester LLC — to build the four-story hotel on Fort Square.

The meeting tonight at City Hall’s Kyrouz Auditorium will kick off at 7 p.m. and features a public comment period where opponents are likely to highlight 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 biology, specializing in 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.

However, at the Planning and Development Subcommittee meeting Thursday, a group of hotel project proponents that included engineer and environmental consultant for the Beauport project, Lester B. Smith Jr., countered the issues that Godfrey reported within his study.

Councilors at the Thursday meeting said they would eagerly await more expert opinions — including input from representatives of city departments like the building inspector and the fire chief. And, when the experts as well as community members on either side have been heard, city councilors expect to vote tonight.

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