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May 18, 2013

Lawsuit challenges hotel approvals

Vincent and Gino Mortillaro, who own and operate a lobster company across Commercial Street from the site of the planned Beauport Gloucester hotel, have filed suit against the city in Lawrence Superior Court in an effort to halt the project, alleging that the Conservation Commission, in approving the project, failed to protect their interests and the physical integrity of the area.

The developer, Beauport Gloucester LLC, was also named in the suit, which essentially appeals the commission’s ruling.

Filed Tuesday by the Mortillaro’s attorney, Michael Faherty, the suit has the potential to complicate, if not derail a 101-room hotel designed to replace the derelict and abandoned former Birdseye plant and cold storage concrete block building at the upper edge of Pavilion Beach.

The immediate potential trap for what — outside the Commercial Street businesses and the elevated residential enclave known as the Fort — is a project that’s been granted all of its needed local permits by the City Council, involves a potential delay in the start of a $7 infrastructure improvement of the Commercial Street/Fort neighborhood, Mayor Carolyn Kirk indicated Friday. That project is set to be carried out with a $3 million state grant, but the grant carries a time frame requiring construction to start “this spring,” or by June 21.

“The city Legal Department is evaluating our response,” said Kirk. “The infrastructure project is postponed indefinitely until we can understand the implications (of the suit) on the financing package. We are supposed to have a shovel in the ground this spring in order to benefit from the $3 million MassWorks grant.”

Faherty, however, said later Friday that “our appeal has nothing to do with the infrastructure project.” He said that the city was already facing delays on the infrastructure work because it still faces a Conservation Commission clearance that’s now scheduled for August.

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