Mayor Carolyn Kirk reiterated her belief Wednesday that Beauport Gloucester LLC's proposed Hotel Overlay District fits into the city's harbor planning efforts of the last decade.
The proposal's critics have said the company's proposal — aimed at opening the door to a projected four-story, 102-room hotel on part of Pavilion Beach — cuts into some of the last remaining empty Marine Industrial space in Gloucester — space, they say, the city should protect and support.
Kirk sent her response to those arguments from Monday night's debate to the Planning Board yesterday afternoon. She said she won't be at the Planning Board's public hearing tonight.
The board has continued the hearing, hostedly joint with the City Council's Planning and Development Subcommittee, to tonight at 7 for rebuttals stemming from Monday's session, which packed some 200 people into City Hall's Kyrouz Auditorium and drew more than three dozen speakers.
Cape Ann TV, which carried Monday's hearing, will also televise tonight's meeting live.
Kirk said Wednesday she has no doubt that the proposal from Beauport Gloucester — the limited liability company launched by New Balance owner and founder Jim Davis with an eye toward building a hotel on the site of the former Birdseye frozen food plant — meshes with Gloucester's 2009 and 2011 harbor development and marine plans.
The plans cite the need for a downtown hotel that doesn't conflict with current fishing and marine industrial businesses. Kirk added that the proposal would tack another use into an area that's home to mixed uses already. The Commercial Street area contains Marine Industrial businesses, commercial businesses, and residences.
"Regardless of the zoning label," Kirk said, "the reality is it's a mixed-use area." The proposal, she added, tacks another use to that part of the city.
Fort group attorney
Daniel Hill said Wednesday he takes issue with that. He's a land-use attorney out of Cambridge who represents the Fort Community Association. He took up the case after Ann Molloy of Ocean Crest and Neptune's Harvest, both located in the Fort, reached out to him, he said.
Hill said the city's harbor planning speaks for itself. The plans, he said, note the need for a hotel, but set the site for one downtown, and out of the Marine Industrial zoning district.
"It (the 2011 Harbor Economic Development plan) acknowledges the need for a hotel, but it said the hotel should be outside the Designated Port Area and Marine Industrial (area)," said Hill.
Those plans, he said, state that the city wants both the visitor and marine industrial economies to succeed in concert with each other. But, changing the zoning for a hotel, he said, comes into direct conflict with marine industry.
"There are a limited number of parcels that can be used for this (Marine Industry)," Hill said.
Though the Birdseye property doesn't have water access, it could be a place for local businesses to expand. At the basic level, he added, traffic from the hotel will frustrate an already congested Commercial Street.
The 2009 harbor plan, he said, carries some legal significance as well. The city set the direction it intended to take on harbor development in that plan, and the state signed off on it. And the state might take issue with the change in direction when it comes to granting chapter 91 permits. Chapter 91 is The Massachusetts Public Waterfront Act, and regulates activities on coastal waterways, including construction and change of use, i.e. the conversion of a commercial fishing establishment to an office building.
The Beauport Gloucester LLC proposal calls for an overlay district that would allow hotel and "accessory uses" at 33 and 45-61 Commercial St., on top of the uses allowed under the marine industrial zoning.
Not seeking a TIF
Kirk also said Wednesday that any potential development on that site will not receive any tax increment financing, or TIF, agreements, extending tax breaks from the city.
"Given the controversial nature of TIFs and the concerns expressed during the public hearing, the administration will not entertain any TIF requests regarding a subsequent hotel proposal that may come forward should the rezoning be approved," Kirk stated in her written rebuttal statement.
Beauport project manager Sheree DeLorenzo, meanwhile, said Wednesday that's not an issue; Beauport Gloucester isn't looking for a TIF.
"We had no plans to pursue a tax increment finance agreement for Beauport Gloucester," said DeLorenzo, of Cruiseport Gloucester. "But now that the topic has come up at Monday's public hearing and from the mayor's office today, we want to make clear that Beauport Gloucester will not pursue a TIF for our hotel project on Pavilion Beach."
The company, according to the proposal, asks for all buildings and structures permitted in the overlay district to have a minimum square footage of 40,000 square feet, with a maximum height of 75 feet.
While the company wants to build a hotel on the site, it hasn't released concrete plans for it, only a sketch outlining showing the four floors and a retained or rebuilt Birdseye tower, which rises to about 75 feet.
DeLorenzo has said the project will generate about 100 new jobs in the city.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.