GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 5, 2012

Report sees flaws in Fort planning

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — A third-party review of proposed Beauport Gloucester hotel development plans cites substantial problems regarding traffic, parking and emergency vehicle access for the project, proposed for the former Birdseye industrial site in the Fort.

The City Council approved a hotel overlay district in June, covering a portion of Commercial Street on the beachfront facing the outer harbor. And, Beauport Gloucester LLC’s partners, New Balance owner Jim Davis and Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo, are now pursuing permit applications for a 101-room, four-story hotel within the overlay, which covers an otherwise marine industrial area.

Gloucester had hired BETA Group, Inc., a Norwood-based engineering firm, to review Beauport Gloucester LLC.’s hotel permit application. And BETA, analyzing each aspect of the plan, focused especially on potential traffic accidents at the six-street intersection at Tally’s Corner, limited parking in the hotel parking garage layout, and a parking lot design that could be inaccessible to a 100-foot ladder fire truck.

The permit application also describes a plan to erect signs and remark the pavement to enhance pedestrian and driver safety at the 6-way West End Intersection. But BETA’s analysis has found that the changes would prove insufficient. The BETA report was being aired at a meeting of the City Council’s Planning and Development Subcommittee Wednesday night.

”The proposed mitigation at the West End Intersection is cosmetic and will have little impact on traffic operations,” BETA wrote.

The company pointed out that no physical curb changes were planned. Instead, the applicants had committed to realigning street angles and stop approaches through new traffic lines to be painted on the roadway. Also, the applicants had planned to remove one crosswalk, which BETA said could create a situation where pedestrians continue crossing without the crosswalk in place, putting pedestrians at an increased risk.

”We are concerned that elimination of the crosswalk may not increase safety,” BETA wrote.

Also, the cost estimate for the overall infrastructure improvements — before including BETA’s suggestions, and with 25 percent of the design complete — is projected at $7.5 million. The city had planned on funding the bulk of the infrastructure requirements of the hotel and had applied for a $5 million state MassWorks grant in September. But Gloucester was left out of the funding when the state announced the grants in November.

The cost of the project itself – tentatively pegged at $20 million to $25 million — could also increase as garage and parking lot layout plans were also targeted by the BETA report as needing changes.

The site layout outlines a parking garage to be built beneath the building, containing 102 spaces, along with another lot to be situated above ground with 45 spaces. According to BETA, the plans may not include enough parking for the 101 room hotel, plus the two 150-seat banquet halls, a restaurant and a lounge all planned for the complex.

”The parking analysis only accounts for those hotel guests staying overnight. There are, however, facilities that would require additional parking,” BETA wrote. “Additional parking is likely necessary and the proponent should reevaluate and substantiate actual parking needs.”

BETA’s detailed analysis also raises concern with the access of emergency vehicles.

“There is a concern that the surface parking lot geometry cannot adequately accommodate a non-articulated 100-foot fire ladder truck,” BETA wrote.

While the parking lot appears to provide enough space for an ambulance, according to BETA, the layout will also require a fire lane in the parking lot, now absent from plans. And routes into the lot may change for easier access to the four-story building by fire ladder trucks.

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