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Project at 99A Essex Avenue

Proposed Project at 99A Essex Avenue next to 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.  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′. 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 on our portion of developed coastlines and harbors. 

Project Status…

The newly proposed project passed The Zoning Board of Appeals at the end of 2019. Now the applications are in for the Conservation Commission, Planning Board and City Council.

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.

Tentative Meeting Scheduled

Confirm all meetings, dates and times on the City of Gloucester’s website:

Week of February 17, 2020: Conservation Commission and Planning Board

Depending on the above meetings, scheduling of the City Council, hearing that votes on a “Special Permit” for height and usage property will be determined as one of the last permits to complete the process.


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:

  1. Write a letter. Due no later than Feb 28, 2020 for adequate lead time. After February 28th letters can be read and accepted on the evenings of the Public Hearing, 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

    and 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 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.

  2. Appear at scheduled Public Hearings – most importantly City Council, date TBD
  3. Speak at the Public Hearings, City Council date TBD

2/11/2020 - We have just been informed that our P & D meeting has been moved. Therefore the deadline for letters has been extended to February 28th. P & D is a sub-committee to the City Council. You support is most appreciated.

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