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Project at 99A Essex Avenue

Proposed Project at 99A Essex Avenue next to Cape Ann’s Marina Resort

Tobin and Drew Dominick, owners of Dominick Holdings LLC, are looking to permit and install a large indoor heated boat storage building at 99A Essex Avenue, next door to their other property, Cape Ann’s Marina Resort.  Currently, a large portion of the boats kept at the Marina in the summer leave Gloucester to be stored elsewhere because the Marina or Gloucester does not have a facility to accommodate them.  This is a unique economic development and opportunity for the Marina itself, but also for jobs and economic prospects for Gloucester’s maritime industry.  With two marine travel lifts and hydraulic trailers Cape Ann Marina accommodates in the water and out of the water boat storage for boats as big as 90′, 100’+ in water. While many boats are stored on trailers and can legally go over the road to one’s back yard, there are many boats that can’t go on a trailer or over the road.  So when it comes to indoor storage for a large boat that can’t go over the road, the Marina will be able to get those big boats inside because they never have to leave the property. This is unique in today’s world of development. There are less and less areas on our portion of developed coastlines and harbors where such a resource like this can happen. 

The location of this building is partially on filled tidelands and also resides in a flood zone. The building has been designed to be flood resilient knowing that this area will flood again in the future. The base walls will have areas of water breakaways and will be used as needed.  The building will also be able to host solar panels and farm rainwater from the roof – all with the of reusing energy within the footprint and beyond.

Project Status…

As of 5/1/2020
The proposed project passed The Zoning Board of Appeals at the end of 2019.

Site Plan review took place on 2/20/2020 and the project passed.

The Conservation Commission hearing opened on 2/19/20 and passed on 3/4/2020.

P & D (Planning & Development), a sub committee of the City Council, not a public hearing but you can listen in, is now on May 6th and then City Council TBD.  You can attend the meetings online, follow the link below to the new City Website.  

If you do tune in, instead of your name on Zoom if your could use CAM supporter!

The City Council will be voting on a “Special Permit” for height and usage property, it is a public hearing and all are welcome.  Letters of support are being accepted now.

Please confirm all meetings, dates and times plus links to Zoom in on the City of Gloucester’s website:

Click here to read the Executive Summary of the Project

By Deb Eliason, Eliason Law Office



The Cape Ann Marina and Resort (“Marina”) has been operating out of its property on Essex Avenue since 1972.  It is a family owned and operated business focusing on the needs of local residents and visitors and is a destination by land or sea and a second home for many of its boaters.  It is a full service marina with year round boat storage in and out of the water, a fuel dock, pump out, boat launching and hauling services, repair service, retail boat parts, engine and boat sales.  It is also home to many small and large fishing, diving and sightseeing charter businesses again hosting many visitors and impacting our city’s tourism economy.  It is an amenity to the City that draws many visitors that utilize not only the Marina facilities, but also seek out and patronize other businesses in the City.  Because it operates as a year-round facility, its fiscal impact can be felt all year.

The Marina intends to construct an approximately 34,320 square foot indoor, climate-controlled boat storage facility (the “Project”) at 99A Essex Avenue (the “Property”).  This proposed use is consistent with the uses allowed in the Extensive Business Zoning District (“EB District”), which favors businesses servicing regional clientele.  It is also in keeping with the existing mix of commercial uses in this area and the Marina’s Chapter 91 license and location on the riverfront.  The proposed building will allow the Marina to store boats both large and small in an indoor, temperature-controlled boat storage facility. Such facilities are highly desirable and those facilities that are able to accommodate large boats are scarce. Establishing one in Gloucester will likely encourage many boaters to seek out the Cape Ann area for their marina and boating activities.

The building has been purposely designed, at greater expense, to minimize the visual impact of the height at the street level.  Windows along the streetscape of both Essex Avenue and Julian Road bring the building down to a human scale. The awning along Essex Avenue also acts to visually lower the height of the building by dissecting it two-thirds of the way up the face of the building. Furthermore, the color and materials are designed to blend with the other buildings on the Marina property.

The Marina, and its associated businesses, is a large employer in the City, employing approximately 300 people during the Summer season and 150 people during the off season.  Keeping its business current within the marine industry is necessary for it to continue to employ people in the numbers that it does today.

Relief Requested

The Marina requests Special Permits from the City Council to allow the new building height of 55’ in excess of 35’, to allow for marine related storage use and for relief from the lowlands requirements. See Zoning Ordinance, §§3.1.6 (b), 2.3.4(13) and 5.5.

Special Permits Should Be Granted

The Project meets the six criteria set forth in Gloucester Zoning Ordinance (GZO”) section 1.8.3.   Social, economic, and community needs are served by Project because the proposed use is consistent with the uses allowed in the EB District and consistent with the existing mix of commercial uses in this area and the Marina’s Chapter 91 license and location on the riverfront.  The Project will likely encourage many boaters to seek out the Cape Ann area for their marina and boating activities.  This will also create economic opportunities for other Gloucester businesses and will allow the Marina to continue to employ people in the numbers that it does today.  Traffic flow and safety is preserved and there will be no new traffic flow on Essex Avenue or Julian Road.  All traffic and activity will be directed toward Essex Avenue and away from the residential neighborhood to the west of Julian Road.  Utilities and other public services will be adequate to serve the Property. On-site utilities will be updated as necessary and will be adequate to meet the needs of the new boat storage facility.  The Project is consistent with Neighborhood character and social structure created by the existing mix of residential and commercial uses in this area of Essex Avenue. The proposed building will present a neater and more orderly appearance to the area along Essex Avenue abutting the residential area.  In addition to moving a lot of the noise and activity that now takes place in close proximity to the residential neighbors along Julian Road inside the building, the building will also provide a buffer between the residential neighborhood and the other activities taking place on the Marina property.  The proposed building will be constructed so as to maintain the Quality of the natural environment The environmentally sensitive areas on the Property have been taken into consideration in the siting of the proposed building, which will be located entirely outside of the 100’ buffer from the Coastal Bank and only partially within the 200’ Riverfront Area. The building was substantially reduced in size from the original proposal so that the front yard setbacks along Essex Avenue and Julian Road could both be met minimizing its impact on the abutting residential neighborhood.  The potential fiscal impact is positive. Establishing this type of boat storage facility in Gloucester will make Gloucester a destination for many boaters that might otherwise go elsewhere.  More visitors to Gloucester creates more economic opportunities for all Gloucester businesses and the City as a whole. Furthermore, the new building will likely increase the assessed value of the Property and add commercial tax revenue to the City’s tax rolls.  This Project is a good example of the blue economy, which is a priority of not only the City but also the State.

Pursuant to GZO § §  5.5.2 and 5.5.3., the special permit for relief from the lowlands requirements is warranted because the proposed structure, a commercial boat storage facility, will not pose any hazard to the health or safety to the occupants thereof.  None of hazardous criteria stated Section 5.5.3 exist under the Project.

Lastly, the criteria discussed above pursuant GZO § 1.8.3 make it clear that the Property is suitable for a boat storage facility and entitled to a special permit under GZO

  • 2.3.4(13). The EB district fully supports this type of use.


Accordingly, the requested special permits should be granted by the City Council. The proposed boat storage facility falls squarely within the uses contemplated in the EB district and by Chapter 91, which also governs the use of this Property. As a port city, it is important that the City support its marine oriented businesses – the blue economy has become a focus both locally and on the state level.  That is especially important when that business helps to establish the City as a destination year round – which helps all businesses in the City to prosper. The requested permits will allow the Marina to add an important amenity to its facilities that will help it remain a viable and successful business that is one of the larger employers in the City.

How you can support…

this economic development for Gloucester, for our Blue Economy and the boaters in need.
Stay on top of the project and help support the project, your support is important right now:

    1. As a Gloucester resident we encourage you to get in touch with City Councilors (Councilors at Large and Ward Councilors) listed on the website, even if you don’t know them. There contact information is posted, email and phone. Please leave a message with them if can’t reach them as to the reason of your call.  It is very important that they know how many supporters of the project are out there and why.
    2. Appear at scheduled Public Hearings – P & D, TBD.  Also, of greater importance City Council, date TBD
    3. Speak at the Public Hearings, City Council date TBD 
    4. Write a letter. Letters can be accepted (we think) 72 hours prior to meeting, Send it in regardless. So now is the time.  Letters can be read and accepted on the evenings of the Public Hearings as well, during public comment times, and bring a copy to submit in person to the Clerk. Letters can also be read on some’s behalf if they are unable to attend.

      Attention City and mailing address

      The letters of support can be sent to the City Clerk at the following email or mailing address: City Council c/o Joanne Senos, City Clerk  –  Please cc: Tobin Dominick and Deborah Eliason deliason@eliasonlawoffice.comand mail to:City Council
      c/o Joanne Senos
      City Clerk
      City Hall
      9 Dale Avenue
      Gloucester, MA 01930

      Topics to address in letters…
      We suggest reading the Executive Summary (above) of the project for topics to expand on as it relates to your personal opinions, backgrounds, Gloucester and its economy, the marine industry locally, nationally and internationally etc.. We appreciate any support to our existing businesses here as well as efforts made by the Dominicks and their staff.

      • Why is Cape Ann Marina wanting indoor heated boat storage: BIG DEMAND…from the customers of the marina, other Gloucester and Rockport resident boat owners, neighboring communities and beyond want to store their vessels inside. There is a lack of boat storage for boats that can’t travel over the road, to store inside.
      • Inside heated storage protects the vessel from high depreciation of their investment costs over time.  Thousands and million dollar investments under shrink wrap vs. inside heated environment is a lot better option.
      • Design: Our team of architects and engineers have come up with a great design. Why it could be a plain metal building, extra thought and expense has been put into the overall design with the focus on the Essex Ave frontage to be most interesting and inviting. Windows on both corners, a use of color and an awning about half way up help minimize the height and bring attention to what is inside. Similar to a car showroom as you drive by, the windows will allow one to see in. Lighting will also help at night, while not disturbing the neighborhood.
      • Why so tall: The proposed height is approximately 55′ at the peak which will accommodate a 45′ high door. The door to enter the storage building has to be tall and wide to maneuver a boat on a trailer or lift, into the building. The smaller the door, the less opportunity to satisfy the demand and feasibility of the project. Even at 45′ high, some of the customers will not fit.
      • This project is an economic engine contributing to the Blue Economy in a year round capacity.  Expert from NMMA (National Marine Manufactures Association): “Recreational boating has an annual economic impact in Massachusetts of $4.4 billion. This included manufactures and suppliers, sales and services, boating activities and business tax revenue.  It supports 20,362 MA jobs and 1,055 businesses in MA. There are 134,538 registered boats in MA.”
      • Cape Ann Marina has the existing capacity to handle the vessels that can go inside the proposed building.  What differentiates inside boat storage locations is the proximity to the water in which they are hauled/launched. Cape Ann Marina has access.  Because Gloucester and the North Shore does not have such a building to take these vessels, and the coastal landscape is pretty much locked up, such a development is a great economic opportunity for Gloucester.  Valuable waterfront property and new environmental policies continue to narrow opportunity for new marine usage developments locally and country wide.
      • Boaters are living in Gloucester and beyond. Our tourism and blue economy relies heavily on the activity of boaters both recreational and commercial vessels. Year round we have visitors that stay at our marinas, hotels, eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores, provision for small to long trips offshore. Gloucester’s maritime businesses rely on recreational boats and commercial vessels to not only stay, short or long term, but also get work done on the boats and store the boats here due to the hauling and shore side services. Gloucester continues to invest in this economy as America’s Oldest Seaport and is making greater efforts than ever to encourage more traveling boaters to visit, stay and relocate to our maritime economy while recognizing the shift of less commercial vessels and more recreational travelers.  We are all looking forward to the new Harbormaster’s facility designed around the traveling boater, hoping to open in late spring.
      • Employment – While we don’t believe this building will increase new jobs here, at least initially, we will be able to keep some of the seasonal and part time staff that we are forced to lay off, and make then full time.  We are very excited about this opportunity for our staff.  The labor market in the marine industry is scarce. Our staff is typically hired without much knowledge but a big desire to learn. We embrace such ambition and invest in educating.  When you have to lay them off, you risk loosing them to other year round employment, lost investment, and back to hiring without experience. Good labor in our marine industry is very scarce and we look forward to being able to stabilizing our seasonal staff to year-round jobs in which they can grow into marine professionals.  “As we build it- they will come”…once the building is constructed, we are looking forward to future opportunities to offer.
      • We recently teamed up with Yamaha, The Massachusetts Marine Trades Assoc., and Essex Technical School to bring onsite training for entry level students here at the Marina, and a second class is already scheduled.  We are one of the first in the country to do this. Why? Because skilled marine technicians are few and far between as our marine economy continues to change to more outboard engines, especially in the recreational market. Again, an indoor space allows for other opportunities to open and further use our existing building to complement future services.
      • Boats are being built wider than in past decades, they are growing…we anticipate this trend to be a challenge for marina operation, and plans are underway to make our marine lift area wider and the doors wider as we know this is coming.

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