The Salem News
---- — To the editor:
In the fall of 2004, former Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon contacted Joe Leone, the owner of the Hamilton and Newburyport Black Cow restaurants, to ask if he would respond should the city put out a third request for proposals to attempt to acquire a restaurant user for the city-owned, defunct waterfront McDonald’s site. No one had responded to the city’s first two attempts and the mayor wanted to make sure that if they advertised the project again they would get at least one response.
Mr. Leone expressed interest, but had no detailed information about the challenges for getting permits to build on this land that was constrained by being “filled tidelands” needing a Chapter 91 permit, a Designated Port Area (DPA), and having been purchased under a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. To educate himself, Mr. Leone invested in a study by BSC, a Boston environmental consultant, to advise him of the permit challenges. The BSC report, in early 2005, stated that while most of the permits to develop the site as a restaurant would be challenging, but possible, the restriction of being in a Designated Port Area would be too restrictive in that it would limit restaurant use to just 25 percent of the site. With this information Mr. Leone hired my firm, who had worked with him on the design and construction of both of his Hamilton and Newburyport locations, to create a full response to the city’s Request for Proposals. This was filed in April of 2006 and clearly specified that it would be the city’s responsibility to remove the DPA from this site.
The Black Cow proposal was accepted by the city but some months later city officials indicated they would not eliminate the Designated Port Area and later in the approval process they reduced the restaurant size from 360 seats to 200. After much consideration Mr. Leone reluctantly agreed to proceed as their development partner with these new limitations.
What followed was a four-year process to get local and state permits followed by four years of court battles between abutters, Frank and Susan Kinzie (the owners of Beverly Port Marina), the city of Beverly, and the state Department of Environmental Protection. This eight-year history is long, and too complex for this letter, but for those who are interested The Salem News has agreed to make an online link to my submission of the details.
I have been involved in every part and detail of this last eight years where Mr. Leone has spent $200,000 on consultants, architecture, engineering and legal as the city’s partner in securing all permits and a signed 40-year lease.
The city has spent a similar sum on consultants and the legal appeals process and millions more to rebuild the waterfront marina and move the harbormasters building so that this project could be shovel ready. Mayor Scanlon has moved on and Mayor Michael Cahill has indicated a new approach to the waterfront; remove the Designated Port Area restriction from the entire area, the City’s lands and the Kinzies’ lands. This is what the city agreed to do when it accepted the Black Cow proposal in 2006, it should have been done then, and it is only more appropriate now. This change will allow the state to reissue the Chapter 91 permit for the construction of the Black Cow and allow the Kinzies to proceed with a Chapter 91 permit to develop their property. This would be the win/win approach.
Any discussion of the city reissuing a new RPF for the McDonald’s site is totally misguided. There are permits and a lease in place with the Black Cow that have cost eight years, a lot of Beverly taxpayers’ money, and a lot of Joe Leone’s money to acquire. Remove the Designated Port Area from the Beverly waterfront and let the Black Cow project get built and start paying the City rent.