Wednesday, May 30, 2012

(submitted to Gloucester Daily Times May 8, 2012)

In the seventy years I’ve observed Gloucester’s waterfront, never have we had a more promising opportunity to move this city forward “economically” than Beauport LLC plans for the Birdseye “Fort” hotel site. All the major improvements on our harborfront over the past seven decades do not equal this one 26 million dollar capital investment currently being proposed for one parcel in the Fort. After all the debate and hoopla have been aired; the reality is this Beauport hotel proposal is an economic game changer for Gloucester. It will showcase our harbor.

Over the years Gloucester’s fish business has changed from frozen to fresh. Cutting, packing and freezing every redfish and whiting landed (hundreds of millions of pounds annually) is no longer the process. Today we're primarily cutting an ever diminishing few ground fish for area retail restaurant customers. We no longer store millions of pounds of processed fish for months in cold storage, waiting for the Lenten season. We are not processing fish 24/7, 365 days a year as the opposition would have us believe! That was in 1947 to 1950…before some of the protesters were born!

From our tumbled down Paint Factory, around the entire inner harbor, numerous derelict wharfs await investment. The harbor is dotted with rotten pilings from Capt. Joe’s to the Building Center. The I-4 C-2 parcel has gone begging for 50 years. On the Fort, Good Harbor Fillet moved out and is now out of business at Blackburn Industrial Park. North Atlantic Fish sold out and Amero’s Fort Point, formerly Cape Ann Fisheries, lies fallow. Producer’s property awaits city auction and Sam Parisi’s building is empty of tenants. Do we need any more proof? The handwriting is on the wall. The taxpayers, the realists, are crying out, waiting for relief.

In the court of public opinion, the opposition has not made their case. They’ve called in every doom and gloom anti-advocate from all points of the compass, to no avail. The new greasy pole is up and ready, the carnival has been booked for June. It’s business as usual in the west end; St. Peter’s Fiesta is alive and well!

Finally, Gloucester has a chance to move our waterfront forward with a local investor, private money and a redeeming concept for the economic rebirth of our city. It is Beauport LLC that will jump start Gloucester’s harbor bail out! While posted at Market Basket in early March of this year, over 300 Gloucester citizens signed my petition enthusiastically for this Fort renewal. It’s now time for our city councilors to sign on. Beauport LLC hotel will rightfully be Gloucester’s Motif #1, a window on the harbor! Remember: “A rising tide lifts all boats”.

Ron Gilson

Friday, May 18, 2012


Another hotel overlay zoning proposal, only this time it’s in my neighborhood. We purchased our condominium in 2002. We are not direct abutters to the Atlantic Road motels; we live year round at 87 Atlantic Road. During our back shore residency, numerous private homes have changed hands with the new owners investing substantially in upgrades, major additions and pricey new homes. People in this neighborhood take pride in their properties.

These petitioning motel owners are no different. In fact, they are prominent well-run successful major Gloucester businesses in our Bass Rocks neighborhood. They are an established tourist attraction…a destination. They provide a service to our vacationing out-of-town visitors. They provide local seasonal jobs and wages, a breakfast restaurant that in our judgment ranks as one of the premiere seasonal restaurants on Cape Ann – open to the public--all this, while contributing substantially to our real estate tax base as well as collecting meals taxes and occupancy taxes for city coffers.

While our neighborhood is zoned “residential”, it hasn’t always been so designated. Our Bass Rocks motel/residential neighborhood for the last 100 years plus, has always been a mecca for tourists.

History records hotels were here first. They are not imposing their business on us; we residents, all “late comers” to this area, bought into existing properties and virgin land constructing private dwellings with the full awareness of the existing motel presence in the immediate neighborhood.

The opposition from our neighbors is in some respects understandable. Certainly there are concerns; however, their negative talking points are in my opinion, often “red herring”. I don’t buy the predicted dire traffic threat….50 additional rooms/cars will not equal the year-round daily traffic generated by the Elks Lodge, especially during special events, weddings, charity drives, etc., that cause overflow parking along Atlantic Road. I am more concerned with the annoying 100+ motorcycle caravans on a sunny weekend day, roaring by my front door; but then again, motorcycle drivers have rights too! Just as weddings are business functions common to our Atlantic Road Bass Rocks community. Who would deny this pre-existing business activity? We live in America!

Obstruction of views?? The petitioners’ properties back up to the Bass Rocks golf course, holes #3 and #4. There is no residential view obstruction. Sewer problems and beach parking on Farrington Avenue – grasping for straws! It’s the same old litany of regurgitated talking points, advanced by opponents to every application for growth and renewal in our city. In my view, the opponents are “crying wolf” for their own self interests, i.e., “We’ve got ours; we don’t want anyone else to improve their situation.”

Having said all of the above, we are generally in favor of this application to improve our city’s hospitality posture, add jobs and increase city tax revenues. We feel that this sensitive “by right” overlay application, if approved, should only move forward after appropriate in depth public review and scrutiny by the Planning Board and City Council, just as the Birdseye hotel overlay application in another sensitive city neighborhood is currently making its way through the established appropriate permitting process.

Ronald and Joan Gilson