GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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May 11, 2013

DEP 'barrier' stirs hotel debate

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection has found that Gloucester’s Pavilion Beach was absolutely a barrier beach at one point, but has been “encapsulated” by the pavement and foundation of the parking lot and Birdseye building that Beauport Gloucester LLC. would tear down and replace to build a 101-room hotel on the site.

Because of that, the state agency wrote in a finding announced this week, the barrier beach is seen as “no longer functional” and “the performance (protection) standards for work in that area may be irrelevant if the landform no longer functions ...”

But residents who have been fighting the hotel project and are now looking not to block it, but have it scaled back, contest the DEP’s stand, which suggests the project could go forward without the need for barrier beach protections.

”All we asked in the end was simply for them to make modifications to protect our city,” Jimmy Tarantino, Port Community Alliance president said Friday. “It’s all about the protection of our community and bottom line that should come first.”

Tarantino and other Port Community Alliance members have suggested that a smaller hotel, set farther back, would allow dunes to flourish in the area, though Beauport’s engineer and environmental consultant counters that idea.

Tarantino said that based on information found in the three-part Godfrey report, written free of charge by Dr. Paul Godfrey, a UMass-Amherst emeritus professor of biology. In the report, Godfrey wrote about the danger he believes a seawall would present to the surrounding area.

Nathaniel Mulcahy, a Port Community Alliance Member and a scientist, said if the DEP were to decide not to allow buildings on the site, then he would embrace the “paradise” that would come in place of a parking lot and the dilapidated Birdseye building.

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