GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

March 18, 2013

Editorial: City must hold up its end of Fort infrastructure deal

There were palpable sighs of relief and celebration coming from any residents and especially from City Hall last week after Gloucester’s City Council cast its 8-0 votes approving permits for the Beauport Gloucester LLC Fort hotel project.

And it’s clear that the Beauport partners of Sheree DeLorenzo and Jim Davis are poised to move forward on the 101-room, four-story facility once the procedural time frames are met. But while the council has given this project sweeping approvals, it’s now also incumbent upon city officials to hold up their end of the deal when it comes to carrying out the extensive infrastructure work needed to make this project a viable reality as well. For those water, sewer and roadwork upgrades are nearly as much a part of this project as the construction of the hotel itself.

In all, the city is looking to carry out some $7 million worth of long overdue infrastructure upgrades throughout the Fort, with a state MassWorks development grant accounting for some $3 million of the funding, and Beauport Gloucester’s principals, who initially agreed to offer $600,000 for the project’s design study, now kicking in another $1.4 million for a $2 million total.

Yet that leaves the city some $2 million short, this project – committed to bringing in some 150 jobs and added tax revenue — should not cost residents a significant outlay in property tax dollars at the start. Attorney Michael Faherty, who has represented Mortillaro’s Lobster Company in opposing the hotel project said that potential gap in funding raises concern, especially given that the city has not yet completed the infrastructure project designs. And he raises a good point.

Public Works Director Mike Hale says not to worry — that the city has developed a “conceptual plan” for how the new infrastructure would be laid out, and called the design about 85 percent complete. The incomplete 15 percent of the project he says, consists largely of setting a schedule and planning for construction impacts while tackling issues such as traffic flow. And the city should be able to pull that together.

But now more than ever — with a true landmark project opening the door toward a brighter Gloucester future – it’s essential that city officials work with developers to carry this effort across all goal lines.

Let’s be sure the city becomes a vehicle for seeing this project through, not one that fumbles at the finish.

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