By Marjorie Nesin
---- — In a decision that both the Beauport Gloucester LLC hotel proponents and opponents are embracing, the state has declared part of the hotel design must retain public access to the water.
The state Department of Environmental Protection found that a “small part of the site” slated for construction falls on a beach area protected by a Chapter 91 designation. The classification ensures that the public has access to the wetland beach area, according to DEP spokesman Ed Coletta.
“It requires that there be facilities of public accommodation. That could include a restaurant or some other type of facility, a bathroom, that kind of thing,” Coletta said.
Sheree DeLorenzo and Jim Davis — grouped as Beauport Gloucester LLC — must apply for a Chapter 91 license, filing plans for the property where they intend to build a 101-room hotel on Gloucester’s Commercial Street. The plans must also include some kind of provision that accommodates public access to Pavilion Beach, according to Coletta.
And, Beauport Gloucester’s engineer and environmental consultant, Lester B. Smith, Jr., says the building plans hit that mark.
“What we’re doing is consistent with what they typically would ask for,” Smith said. “We’ll have to file a license application but it’s consistent with what we’re planning.”
Smith said the designated Chapter 91 area happened to fall into the same space that Beauport was already proposing as a public walkway, meant to create handicap accessible ramps and improve public entrances to the beach.
Jay Gustafaro, a commercial fisherman, former city councilor and self-described environmental activist, hailed the DEP’s designation and jurisdiction over the land as good news, saying the designation will protect not just access to the land, but will also shelter the fragile beach environment.
“It appears that the people at the DEP have heard us,” Gustafaro said. “Chapter 91 is all about protecting the seashore for the rights of the citizens.”
According to DEP spokesman Coletta, the state agency’s review of the hotel plans would include analysis of the proposed seawall. But, he said, he was not sure how the seawall would play into the decision. Another group at the DEP is also reviewing the proposed seawall.
Gustafaro and those wary of the hotel’s impact say the designation, in recognizing the wetland, will protect the beach.
Though Coletta could not determine just yet whether the designation would affect the seawall plans, opponents of the hotel project believe the seawall will not be allowed, as the wall would protect the hotel, but, they say, cause increased storm damage to surrounding properties.
“What we’re about is protecting Pavilion Beach,” Gustafaro said. “They’re building the kind of wall that would protect only their hotel.”
Beauport Gloucester was notified of the state’s Chapter 91 designation after filling out a routine “determination of applicability form,” according to Coletta. Beauport receiving word of the DEP’s decision in a letter dated April and has until May 7 to appeal.
If the DEP approves the plans and application, the state would create a draft license. The state then would consider public comment before deciding whether to finalize the license.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or firstname.lastname@example.org.