, Salem, MA

November 16, 2013

Letter: Beverly should ditch waterfront deal

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

The city of Beverly is currently in negotiation with the Black Cow to grant a long-term lease to operate a restaurant on the site of the former McDonald’s on the Beverly waterfront. The city purchased the property utilizing state of Massachusetts conservation grant funding that requires it to be utilized in perpetuity as an open space recreational waterfront park. This intent and the applicable laws should not be circumvented to establish another usage. We need to maintain and enhance the limited Beverly Harbor recreational parkland for use by the general public, not eliminate it in favor of a high-end restaurant used by a few. Note the draft lease specifically prohibits fast food services that would be used by the people utilizing the boating facilities and public access areas adjacent to the leased property.

Under the terms of the grant, the property is now conservation land and must be dedicated and used for park and passive recreation purposes. It is permanently protected open space under Article 97 of the state Constitution. Accordingly, the city cannot “sell, transfer, lease, relinquish, release, alienate, or change the control or use of, or any right to, the property” without obtaining multiple state approvals. A review of the draft lease indicates there will be virtually no open space parkland remaining after the project is completed. No unbiased assessment of the planned usage would conclude the parcel is dedicated to open-space conservation usage. Approval of the Massachusetts Legislature is required if the project as proposed is to be authorized. Even if such authorization were granted, the city would be obligated to provide other property of equal value and utility to replace the lost parkland. Hardly feasible! Where? How funded? Use of the major portion of the site for a large, high-end commercial restaurant used only by the few patrons is unacceptable.

This ill-conceived idea to construct a large restaurant on dedicated conservation parkland should be terminated and the city should use its efforts to develop the parcel as a true park with appropriate amenities to allow all of the public to utilize the entire parcel for recreational purposes and to enjoy the scenic views of Beverly Harbor as required by the grant. The city should seek additional grants, as has been done in Salem and Newburyport, to fund the effort.

George Whitney

Former Chairman

Beverly Harbor Management Authority