When given a chance to speak about proposed development at the former Ocean View Inn property on Gloucester's Back Shore, some residents could agree on one thing: the developer has gone above and beyond.
"If Gloucester had more developers like Mr. Melanson and his team we would be a much better community for it," resident Jim Towne said at Tuesday night's public hearing.
Bryan Melanson, owner of Woburn-based Melanson Development Group, which is developing the property, has received a special permit to construct a multi-family building with seven or more units, and a major project involving 11 or more dwelling units on the Atlantic Road property.
As multiple residents explained on Tuesday, the property has been through a number of challenges over the year.
"It was a real eyesore for years," abutter Phillip Puma said. "The contractors that bought it first were a disaster to work with. They had so many different plans."
But when Melanson came in to develop the former inn, things were handled differently.
"Mr. Melanson came in with a totally different approach," Towne said, explaining that he believed the developer went forward in a way that made sure that the project was in character with the neighborhood and in partnership with the neighbors.
"He came in and really presented a real nice project and we are really happy that this is going to go forward," Puma added.
When Melanson — as manager of 171 Atlantic Road LLC — purchased the Ocean View Inn property in 2018, as Eliason explained at the Sept. 16 Planning and Development Subcommittee meeting, the buildings that were on-site were in a deteriorated state.
Since the purchase, the lots have been reconfigured into five lots — addresses of 163, 165, 167, 169, and 171— and Melanson has begun renovating the former conference center located at the corner of Atlantic and High Popples roads into a single-family home.
The application for a special permit is specific to 163 Atlantic Road, which is just one of the multiple addresses where Melanson intends to replace the deteriorated structures.
In just the last week, Melanson's renovation of Ocean View Inn’s High Cliff Lodge, now named Oceana, was sold to a private buyer for $4.7 million.
Other buildings on the site of the former hotel, part of the “Aquarius on the Back Shore” housing development, that are in the works include SeaView, Nautica, Equinox, Neptune and Twilight.
While she agreed that Melanson is "a very nice business man," abutter Kathy Clancy did not agree with the project as it stands.
"Preserving the character of Atlantic Road and High Popples, Harriet Road is of concern to me," Clancy said. "If this 11-unit development was proposed anywhere else along Atlantic Road, I would still be here expressing my concern for this type of proposal that would set a troubling precedent."
She said she believes the proposed project is anything but modest and wishes that the scale of it was smaller to allow for more green space.
Although he was not present, Rob Parsons submitted a letter in opposition to the project as well.
As the vote to grant the special permits was unanimous, councilors spoke highly of Melanson and the work he and his attorney Eliason did throughout the process.
"(Melanson) has shown us his commitment to the community and works with people from the community to the best of his ability," Councilor-at-Large Jen Holmgren said.
"This has become the most pleasant experience for a development because of their willingness to meet not only all the criteria that we are required to judge by but because they are working with their neighborhood," Ward 2 Councilor Barry Pett said.
Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.