, Salem, MA

March 12, 2014

No more 'working waterfront'?

Beverly will ask state to eliminate port designation


---- — BEVERLY — With a big loss in court behind them, city officials are charting a new course in an attempt to revitalize the waterfront.

Mayor Mike Cahill said yesterday the city will seek to remove the designated port area classification that ultimately doomed the Black Cow restaurant plan.

The director of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, the agency that oversees DPAs, is scheduled to visit Beverly next week.

“We have a strong belief that, for the most part, our DPA does not function as a DPA is intended to function,” Cahill said. “There’s no real marine industrial use down in our DPA.”

The state created 11 designated port areas in 1978, including the one in Beverly, in an effort to preserve the few areas in the state that could serve as working waterfronts. The rules regarding DPAs discourage developments like condominiums and retail shops that would interfere with commercial fishing, shipping and “other vessel-related activities” linked to manufacturing.

Those regulations led to the downfall of the city’s plan to lease the Glover’s Wharf property for construction of a Black Cow restaurant. An Appeals Court judge ordered the state Department of Environmental Protection to deny the city a permit needed for the restaurant plan, saying the state agency failed to consider another proposal for a boatyard that would have been more suited to a working waterfront.

Last week, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court declined to hear the case, ending the city’s legal options and sending them “back to square one,” Cahill said.

The alternative plan calls for eliminating the designated port area, something that has never happened before, according to Coastal Zone Management. Gloucester has applied to have its designated port area modified, but not completely eliminated.

Kathryn Glenn, the North Shore regional coordinator for Coastal Zone Management, said the agency will re-examine the boundaries of a DPA if a community requests it.

Glenn said the agency would look at the area’s physical characteristics and also whether it has the “character” of an industrial area. After a public comment period and a public hearing, the agency director makes the final decision on whether to change or eliminate the DPA.

Cahill said the city’s designated port area no longer fits the description of a working waterfront. Ships once came into Beverly harbor to unload oil and chemicals for area tanneries, but now the area is mostly used for recreational boating.

In fact, Cahill said the two sites on the waterfront that qualify as marine industrial uses — Rowand’s Fisheries and the city-owned commercial marina — lie just outside the designated port area. The DPA boundaries run from the city’s recreational marina down past the Tuck Point condominiums, encompassing about 63 acres. (Gloucester, with its historic working waterfront, has a DPA of 252 acres.)

The designated port area includes the city-owned Glover’s Wharf, Beverly Port Marina, Tuck Point condos, Jubilee Yacht Club, other small docks and even some homes on Silver Court.

“Pleasure boating is not a marine industrial use, and that’s mostly what goes on on the waterfront,” Cahill said.

Cahill said most people in the community want to see the waterfront developed in a way that encourages public access. The city’s master plan calls for “mixed use” on the waterfront.

Even Frank Kinzie, the Port Marina owner whose legal challenges foiled the Black Cow restaurant plan, said he wants to see restaurants and retail shops. Kinzie has long favored lifting the DPA so that all of the waterfront landowners can develop their properties.

In addition to eliminating the DPA, Cahill said the city would have to take a comprehensive look at the city’s zoning rules for the area. He said the whole process could take a year-and-a-half to two years.

Even though the court ruling on the Black Cow was a setback, Cahill said, “We’ve got a great opportunity to see things on our waterfront that we’ve talked about for some time.”

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or