To the editor:
I am writing this as an open letter to our Gloucester city councilors.
I urge City Council to vote “no” on all the issues before it related to the Designated Port Area, including not supporting Cape Pond Ice’s request for removal from the DPA, City Council’s own potential action to seek removal of I-4, C-2 from the DPA, and the item that would potentially place the DPA on the city’s ballot for citizen vote in November.
There are two main reasons for my perspective, which I urge City Council to adapt as its own. First, the city, through the office of the mayor, has initiated a DPA boundary review. No individual actions should be supported or undertaken until after this review is completed and its recommendations evaluated.
Secondly, the DPA is a critical and extremely valuable asset to the hub port of Gloucester and ought to be preserved. While some businesses located within the DPA, may have mixed feelings about the DPA, the value of safeguarding these properties and adjacent water sheets for 50 percent marine industrial/water dependent use cannot be denied.
Furthermore, the value of the economic output from these properties is never presented in the discussions that occur concerning the DPA.
There are many businesses that contribute a great deal to the economy and employment opportunities of this community and region. This is a critical piece of the discussion that City Council has not sought or brought to public attention, and which City Council ought to bring forward and present to the community as the critical piece of the local economy of which most people are unaware.
The increase of allowable supporting uses to 50 percent of the property in the last Harbor Master Plan greatly expanded the opportunities available to business owners. Even with this liberalization of the uses, I do understand that achieving those uses in a tough economy is not easy. But those factors should not change the commitment to sustaining a DPA.
Presently, there are many harbor businesses that sustain themselves and our community — to name a few, Ocean Crest/Neptune’s Harvest, Mortillaro Lobsters, The Gloucester House, BASE (Buyers and Sellers Exchange seafood auction), the Cape Ann Seafood Exchange, Connolly’s Seafood, a number of whale watch companies, schooner ventures, etc.
These businesses benefit by location in a hub port, on a working waterfront, inter-connections throughout the harbor and, in turn, each contributes to the success of the entire port. There are also vibrant harbor activities from educational ventures, such as Maritime Gloucester, the Ocean Alliance, etc.
Gloucester, and its DPA properties, remains well-situated for sustained hub port activities in fishing, marine industry and their supporting and accessory uses. Economic supports may be needed especially in this time when fishing is in the midst of serious economic restrictions.
Similarly expanded supporting uses may or may not be a good idea in a redrafted Master Plan. The reasons for which DPA’s were established have not disappeared in Massachusetts and will not disappear in the foreseeable future despite potential changes in current fishing, marine industrial and other related economic sectors.
Thus, for the present, adherence to the current criteria ought to be maintained. And City Council, rather than acting in ways that could undermine the DPA, ought to work to educate the entire community as to the benefits and economic value that arises from businesses that operate successfully within the context of the DPA.