In recommending City Council approval of a hotel overlay zone for the former Birdseye property and what is now the 33 Commercial St. parking area, Gloucester's Planning Board indeed made the right call last week, opening the door to the Beauport Gloucester LLC hotel proposal in a manner that also preserves the Fort's marine industrial area as well.
But in pulling the 33 Commercial building — the so-called Chamber of Commerce building, owned by Mac Bell — out of the overlay coverage, the board also sent an important message to residents who have taken up sides both for and against the zoning change and hotel project.
Clearly, the board has heard the concerns voiced at the more than six hours of public hearings of public testimony — including a concern that the original overlay zoning could have allowed Bell to convert 33 Commercial into a hotel as well.
Indeed, Beauport Gloucester — the limited liability development company headed by New Balance founder and owner Jim Davis, and Cruiseport Gloucester's Sheree DeLorenzo — has also responded to Fort neighbors' questions and concerns, reducing the overlay's height limit, for example, from 75 feet to 40 and making other changes.
Yes, the Planning Board's handling of this hearing has raised hopes that this important project will become reality. But it has also clearly maintained the integrity of the process, with community voices being heard.
That's a good model for the City Council to follow.