GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

October 21, 2012

Editorial: Legal operations for Fort businesses must be protected

The “neighborhood meeting” hosted by officials with Beauport Gloucester LLC to hear and perhaps address questions and concerns over the development company’s hotel proposal for the former Birdseye property was indeed long overdue, but nonetheless proved significant.

That’s because, while not a single issue was decided — and while there were certainly no votes taken, with the meeting held outside the realm of city officialdom — the session shed new light on two issues that could emerge as potential deal-breakers as the city’s permitting process moves forward. Those are the “ownership” of the portion of Pavilion Beach in front of what would be the hotel properly, and perhaps more importantly, the willingness of hotel officials to accept the realities of the existing Fort businesses that operate, in some cases, across the street for what is now the city’s first hotel overlay zone.

Regarding the beach, it may seem a little disconcerting to hear attorney John Cunningham, representing Beauport Gloucester principals Jim Davis, the owner of New Balance, and Sheree DeLorenzo, who operates Cruiseport Gloucester, essentially tell residents that Beauport will turn over the deed to its portion of the beach to the city once the hotel gets built. Yet that response makes perfect sense.

For one thing, Beauport officials have been up front from the start in saying they would allow open public access to the full beach, even in the absence of clear deed for the beach, which the city clearly has never been able to produce. Secondly, federal and state coastal zoning regulations, which essentially hold that a property owner has ownership rights to the beach as far down as the high water mark. That means thats not only the case for the Beauport portion of the property, but for the beach sands in front of the Tavern on the Harbor, the Mac Bell-owned Chamber of Commerce building and other beachside properties as well. With access assured, beach “ownership” should not snag the permitting process.

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