The final draft of a report on Gloucester's Maritime Summit has backed off calling for more flexibility within the state's Designated Port Area.
Instead, it recommends simplifying the permitting process and lining up harbor regulations with new industries while protecting the old core of the city's waterfront economy.
The final report, written by city staff and the Massachusetts Area Planning Council, makes two primary recommendations:
One, draw research institutions to the waterfront to serve as the grounding points for marine science and marine technology industries.
Two, make it as simple as possible for those kinds of industries to set up in Gloucester without unpredictable permitting and review processes, while preserving current waterfront industries.
"The summit and this report speak to the importance of preserving the fishing industry and the maritime industries already located at Gloucester Harbor. The regulations in this area must find ways of accomplishing this goal while also ensuring that opportunities in the innovation and production passed economy described and endorsed at the summit can also be realized," the report states.
The second recommendation departs significantly from a recommendation made in the draft report from the November maritime summit.
The initial draft report by MAPC and the city called for greater flexibility and predictability in the harbor area regulations, specifically those areas covered by the Designated Port Area (DPA). That draft called the regulations one of the "biggest obstacles" in a transition toward an innovation-oriented marine economy, and asked that the DPA include marine-related industrial use, rather than marine-dependent industrial use.
Members of the city's Maritime Economy Working Group, who reviewed the draft reports, took issue with the recommendation from the start.
For one thing, the recommendation showed up in the report without participants' input, said member Valerie Nelson.
"That recommendation was not discussed by the committee," she said.
The summit didn't discuss regulatory change aside from streamlining the permitting process, she said. The report, she said, was supposed to cover the summit, not extrapolate. Neither the summit nor the working group, Nelson added, made recommendations about any changes to the DPA.
Nelson said the city and MAPC, which wrote the report, added that language into the public draft.
The draft came as the City Council's Planning and Development Subcommittee moved to pull the long vacant I-4, C-2 lot out of the DPA. That motion came out of the failed request for proposals effort, said subcommittee Chairman Bruce Tobey. The council pulled that motion back in April, and Mayor Carolyn Kirk said the city would review DPA boundaries and limits in the harbor planning process.
The working group, Nelson said, has accepted the final draft language. The report, said Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance CEO and working group member, made the zoning comments at the Maritime Summit more prominent than they actually were. The working group and residents took a close look at that recommendation and asked the city to change that report, said Kerr.
"That's the whole point of a draft, somebody writes it up, we look at it, and we say that was not the intent and then you change it," said Kerr.
The city simply "clarified" the regulatory recommendation in the final draft, said Harbor Planning Director Sarah Garcia.
She said the city and MAPC had added the DPA recommendation because the city has to make sure its regulations permit the industries discussed at the maritime summit. The report, Garcia said, should provide plans moving forward from the summit and into the next harbor planning process. Garcia said the city will do the new harbor plan in the fall, and it will focus on harbor economic development.
The city and MPAC held the Maritime Summit with funding from the federal Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration.
From a planning perspective, she said, the city has to look at regulations and find ways to simplify permitting and incent new maritime development.
"We look at the size and property types of industries we've started discussing and have the regulations and programs incentivize and permit them," Garcia said, "You don't want regulations to be a roadblock."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.