, Gloucester, MA

October 21, 2012

Editorial: Legal operations for Fort businesses must be protected

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — 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.

The question relating to the adjacent businesses, however, is a different story. Asked by Neptune’s Harvest principal Anne Molloy whether Beauport would be willing to sign over any right to challenge the noise and smells around its hotel property, if those factors become an issue for Beauport Gloucester guests, Cunningham said no — if the decibel and smell or air quality issues violate limits within the city’s noise and odor ordinances.

There is a context to that as well. If businesses within the close quarters of the marine industrial Fort area, are exceeding noise and air emissions limits, the city should enforce its ordinances — yes, even against the hotel, if noise there becomes excessive for residential neighbors during its construction. But there is a larger issue here as well — and that’s the time in which these marine industrial businesses operate.

The fact is, these businesses are up and running before the crack of dawn. With Beauport Gloucester looking to build across the street, its officials and guests alike need to be aware that there will be some levels of noise and emissions around the site well before 7 a.m. And Beauport officials cannot be allowed to challenge those hours or “legal” noise or odor levels of any of its neighbors.

We certainly believe the Beauport Gloucester project will provide a significant lift for the city and its residents. We also believe that the 101-room, four-story hotel as shown in designed to date, will be a source of pride for the city, and – among other things — show that marine industrial uses and other uses can effectively co-exist, as they do in other communities. And it’s important to note that Cunningham, at the same meeting last week, reiterated his commitment to work with businesses and other neighbors in the Fort throughout this project.

But hotel and city officials need to confirm that Beauport Gloucester will not pose any challenges to the hours or other operating procedures of the current businesses, which — as long as they’re operating within city guidelines — are operating legally within the still-marine industrial zone, and have every right to continue on their paths to success as well.

Whether a condition of the city’s permits, or through some other agreement, that needs to be in writing – right from the start.