BEVERLY — When it comes to the major issues facing the city, there hasn’t been a whole lot of disagreement between Wes Slate and Mike Cahill.
But voters who head to the polls on Tuesday will have at least one topic on which to scrutinize the two mayoral candidates.
Cahill and Slate disagree on the way to resolve the seemingly intractable problem of opening the city’s working waterfront for development.
Slate says the city has no choice but to pursue the current strategy under Mayor Bill Scanlon of winning its legal battle against Beverly Port Marina owners Frank and Suzanne Kinzie, whose appeals have held up a proposal to build a restaurant next to their property for seven years.
“When the city or any party is up against another party who says, ‘If we don’t get what we want, no one gets anything,’ the only avenue you have is in the courts,” Slate said during a debate at the Centerville Improvement Society. “That’s the course the city has chosen, and I support that.”
Cahill, meanwhile, said the city needs to work cooperatively with the Kinzies to realize its vision of a waterfront with a mix of shops and restaurants and a full harborfront walkway.
“Right now it’s a win-lose, and that’s not what the people of the city want,” Cahill said. “This has been very personalized between the administration and Port Marina.”
The legal hang-up revolves around Beverly Harbor’s classification as one of the state’s 11 designated port areas, or DPAs. The designation is designed to preserve its character as a working waterfront for commercial fishing and boatyards, and it imposes restrictions on “non-water-dependent” development.
In 2006, the city accepted a proposal by restaurant owner Joseph Leone to build a Black Cow restaurant on city-owned land now occupied by a former McDonald’s restaurant.
The state Department of Environmental Protection ultimately approved the restaurant, but the Kinzies filed a series of appeals saying it should not be built under the current DPA restrictions.
The Kinzies say the classification as a designated port area should be lifted to open up the entire waterfront for mixed-use development. They have also advocated for narrowing the federal channel in the harbor to allow for more boat slips.
At one point, the state accepted a competing proposal by the Kinzies to build a boatyard on the city-owned land, saying it was a better use because it is a maritime activity. But that decision was later overturned in favor of the city’s Black Cow restaurant deal.
The Kinzies’ latest appeal is being considered by the Massachusetts Appeals Court. In the meantime, Mayor Bill Scanlon is asking the City Council to approve a 40-year agreement whereby Leone would lease the city-owned land for $30,000 a year and finally build his restaurant.
Some councilors have questioned whether the city should sign a deal before the court makes its decision. They are also examining details to see if the city is getting enough in return for leasing its land.
Cahill said the city needs to work with the Kinzies so that the entire waterfront, not just the city-owned parcel, can be developed into a place where the public can walk, eat, shop and enjoy recreational activities.
Cahil said he would look into adjusting the designated port area, as well as the federal channel, which restricts the number of boat slips, in order to unlock the area’s potential.
“Both of these things have been done in other municipalities up and down the Massachusetts coastline,” Cahill said. “It can be done by our city if our city believes in it and our city wants to move forward, and that’s what the abutters need to do anything productive with their property. They need the city.”
Frank Kinzie has donated $150 to Cahill’s campaign.
Slate said he would also look at changing the DPA and federal channel, but not until the Appeals Court makes its ruling.
“To open it up at this point would throw out all the time and effort we’ve put into the appeals,” he said. “Now’s not the time.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.