By Marjorie Nesin
---- — In granting a special permit to the Beauport Hotel LLC. project Tuesday night, Gloucester’s City Council reaffirmed its unanimous March vote to allow the 101-room hotel to be built in the overlay district along Commercial Street.
But the council decision remains one that opponents could appeal in coming weeks.
The special permit approval is simply a procedural step, recording a written decision on the March vote, which is then filed with the clerks office. If there are no appeals, that would be the final bit of city approval needed by Cruiseport’s Sheree DeLorenzo and New Balance owner Jim Davis — organized as Beauport Gloucester LLC.
While opponents have 20 days to appeal the council’s decision in either land court or superior court, an appeal could “jeopardize” the $3 million MassWorks grant funding for a Fort infrastructure project, as the grant is contingent on the city showing the state that the hotel will create 150 promised jobs, according to Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
“(The) grant for infrastructure is contingent upon job creation and we are supposed to have a shovel in the ground this spring,” Kirk said Wednesday. “Any appeals throw off the schedule, jeopardizes the grant, and will cause the city to regroup on the affordability of the infrastructure project.”
However, if plaintiffs do file appeals, Kirk said the city will vigorously defend the council’s and other boards’ decisions.
“We would defend the conservation commission’s decision and we would defend the city council’s decision, and we would rigorously defend both,” she said.
Michael Faherty, the lawyer who has represented Mortillaro’s Lobster Co.’s interest in the situation, did not return telephone calls to his office for comment Wednesday, though others believe he and his client are poised to appeal.
Other opponents, including those grouped in the Fort Community Alliance, are expected to appeal, and have continued to raise issues about the environmental dangers of incorporating a hotel on Pavilion Beach, claiming it should be recognized by the city and the state as a fragile barrier beach.
City Councilor Bruce Tobey, meanwhile, urged the opponents — including some residents of the Fort neighborhood — to embrace the project rather than counter it. He challenged all residents to ask those considering an appeal how they “justify” their opposition.
“We need to get over our differences and get on with the Beauport Hotel, which will promote our continued economic evolution and lead to new and diverse growth for our city,” Tobey said both at the city council meeting then in a My View column published in Wednesday’s Times.
Tobey highlighted the revenue the city expects to draw from the hotel, pegging it at about $750,000 per year. He also pointed out the infrastructure project as a benefit contingent on the hotel undergoing construction. The 150 jobs that the hotel is expected to create, and which would draw in the state grant for the infrastructure project, are also a positive in this city with unemployment levels about 40 percent higher than the state average.
He urged people throughout the community to challenge opponents to come up with a better idea.
“Ask the opponents to produce their bankable business plans that would similarly advance Gloucester into the future,” he said.
Tobey suggested the hotel is just a combination of the attributes that Gloucester’s industry has consisted of all along, highlighting tourism, marine industrial and commercial business.
“Yes, it’s change and evolution, but in the norms of what we’ve always been,” Tobey said. “So let’s get on with it.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.