GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 25, 2012

Back Shore overlay approved

But hotels will still need special permits to grow

Gloucester’s City Council has approved an overlay district aimed at allowing the expansion of two hotels on the city’s Back Shore.

But the overlay district the councilors approved lacks any provision that would have allowed either of the hotels to add on up to 10 guest units “by right,” or without requiring a special permit.

That provision had been a sticking point and kept the overlay in council and Planning Board discussions since March. Several councilors said they supported the overlay, but wouldn’t vote for it if it allowed for any building by right.

Ultimately, the overlay was approved Tuesday night without any “by-right” provision, and on an 8-1 vote, with Councilor Joe Ciolino dissenting.

Councilors Jackie Hardy and Sefatia Romeo Theken said they supported the idea of the hotels expanding, but wouldn’t support them doing it by right.

For his part, Ciolino said he’d support a project when the hotels brought it before the council, but couldn’t support the long overlay process. He had objected to the overlay district since it was first proposed.

The council, he said, shouldn’t give up its right to review a project. The hotels would have to go for special permit and Planning Board Site Plan review.

“I’m not voting against the project,” Ciolino said, “but voting against the process.”

Attorney Michael Faherty had filed the request for an overlay zone in March on behalf of the Atlantis Oceanfront Inn and the Bass Rocks Ocean Inn. He dropped the by-right section hours before the City Council meeting after reaching a compromise with Attorney Ralph Pino, who represented several neighbors on Atlantic Road, including Jane Fonzo, who lives next to the Atlantis.

Faherty said he still believes a by-right provision should be in the overlay, but didn’t want that single issue to put the entire overlay zoning request in jeopardy.

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