To the editor:
I have been closely watching the open hearing process surrounding the Hotel Overlay District amendment application for Beauport LLC plans for the Birdseye property.
I see three major perspectives informing this issue: planning perspective; economic perspective; and political perspective.
From a planning perspective, proponents of this project have grounded their application in precedent, policies and procedures. It meets all the criteria for zoning amendments of this nature. It uses standards consistent with other approved overlay district applications.
The Fort has a history of inter-use and mixed use where residential, business and industrial work well together. I have seen many instances in which the developer has amended a proposed application when there was a legitimate concern.
The legal representative for the opposition has tied his argument to issues of traffic, setbacks and parking. They are all important issues and they have been addressed in the planning process. I did not see the opposition use any facts, data or research to ground any aspect of its argument. It was highly anecdotal and speculative about what might be, when in fact this application is a very specific and a one-time application. They tied their fish-hook reasoning on preserving maritime industries as if this parcel was the last one available in Gloucester — which it is not.
This hotel will have an amplifying effect for Gloucester. From diversifying the tax base, to tripling the tax avenues available at the property (real estate tax, hotel tax and meals tax), this building and business will only add to the infrastructure of the city by providing much needed hotel and conference space.
I did not hear any points from the opposition about how stopping this hotel is going to help Gloucester economically. Their posters at the last planning meeting suggested that industries on The Fort do $70 million to $80 million worth of business a year and that a proposed hotel would do $12 million a year. Somehow, they conclude that this proposed hotel would supplant existing Fort business. It would not; it will only add to it.
More importantly, those who testified against this proposal represented a small, narrow constituency in Gloucester; they were not representative of the residents of Gloucester as a whole. Much of their economic argument lay at the feet of the maritime industry designation, an industry that is shifting like sands at Good Harbor under our feet. Recent cod studies and NOAA fishing limits cite a collapse in cod stocks. What makes people think the stock is going to rebound in Gloucester? It's not.
Finally, I am actively engaging in this dialogue because I believe the political perspective underlying this whole public discourse will have the greatest impact on our democratic process going forward. Although I have only lived in Gloucester less than two years, I can sense this city is at a tipping point about its future and I do not want Gloucester to be held politically hostage by the tryanny of a loud minority.
Simply put, Beauport LLC is the biggest catch Gloucester has landed in decades. And some people want to throw it back? Any community on the North Shore would die for this economic opportunity.
Let's send a strong signal that the political tide in Gloucester is moving in the other direction. Approve this application unanimously.