SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 13, 2014

Our view: It's time to ease Beverly waterfront restrictions

The downtown section of Beverly where Cabot and Rantoul streets touch the water is one of the great untapped assets on the North Shore. That it remains the site of a decades-old, abandoned McDonald’s restaurant is nothing short of an embarrassment to the city.

There is, however, a chance for change.

While a Supreme Judicial Court ruling earlier this month scuttled city-backed plans for a Black Cow restaurant on the waterfront site, there is still hope that the area along the harbor can be developed to its full potential.

Mayor Michael Cahill took the first step in that direction earlier this week, saying the city will ask the state to remove the waterfront’s “designated port area” classification. It’s a move that is long overdue.

The DPA regulations, created in 1978, were meant to protect the state’s working waterfronts from encroachment by development ranging from condominiums to, yes, restaurants. The rules were a good idea at the time, serving to protect historic marine industries like commercial fishing and shipping.

In 2014, however, that era has largely passed in Beverly. Ships once came to the harbor to unload chemicals for local tanneries. Now the area is dominated by recreational vessels.

“We have a strong belief that, for the most part, our DPA does not function as a DPA is intended to function,” Cahill told reporter Paul Leighton. “There is no marine industrial use down in our DPA.”

We agree.

It was the DPA regulations that ultimately killed the city’s plan to lease the Glover’s Wharf property to restauranteur Joseph Leone, who hoped to build a Black Cow there. 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 a proposal from nearby Port Marina for a boatyard that would have been more suited to a working waterfront.

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