The City Council has taken a step back from seeking special legislation to remove the long-vacant lot on 65 Rogers St. from Gloucester's Designated Port Area.
Councilors at their meeting Tuesday night opted instead to leave the parcel it's future as part of the DPA to the city's upcoming harbor planning process.
The I-4, C-2 lot has sat unused for around 50 years, and one councilor said that the city can wait another two months to come to some agreement. But, he added, at the end of the process, the city needs to start working to either develop it or remove it from the DPA.
"We've been talking about it before and after 1994," said City Councilor Bruce Tobey, who served as mayor from 1994 through 2001. "Let's do it."
The motion to file special legislation to request pulling the lot from the DPA came out of the planning and development subcommittee, of which Tobey is chariman, last week. Tobey, however, pulled back the motion at the council's Tuesday meeting, saying he did so after speaking with Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
"While the administration completely understands the desire to free this parcel from the DPA, especially in light of the lack of responses to the city's request for proposals which required conformity to the DPA regulations, Chairman Tobey and I agreed we need to work in a coordinated fashion," said Kirk in a memo to the council.
Kirk said the city will examine the DPA boundaries and the I-4, C-2 property in the context of Gloucester's new update to its Harbor Plan.
The harbor planning period — which, by state law has to start this year — will involve waterfront property owners, marine industrial advocates, and the city at large. Kirk said she will start that planning effort in the coming weeks, when the city names its new harbor planning director.
The planning process will look at the DPA boundaries and allowable uses within its confines. Kirk has said the city should look at broadening what can go into the DPA, from purely marine-dependent industrial uses to "marine-related" uses.
"We need to identify what those allowable uses are and make sure the DPA aligns with the maritime economy," Kirk said.
"We have to have a bankable plan, that's where (development on the I-4, C-2 site) has fallen apart," Kirk said. The city did not draw a single bidder for developing the I-4, C-2 site after casting a formal request for proposals last fall.
The lot on Rogers Street is the only spot on the harbor the city owns, and can develop through partnering with private developers and federal and state agencies. Developers who looked at the lot but didn't bid on it said the property doesn't provide enough return on a risky and complicated investment.
"Whatever goes there is going to define us (the city)," said Damon Cummings, a local harbor activist.
If a private developer could do something there, it would be the kind of development the city doesn't want on the site, he added.
The property, Cummings said, is the only spot on the harbor the city has control over.
Developing the lot as is, he said, doesn't provide enough reward for a straight-up private developer. He said the city should get behind one of the proposals generated during Kirk's so-called "idea development" campaign, which began in 2010.
"We (those involved in the Idea Development) assumed the city was going to work with them," Cummings said. "We didn't expect the city to drop it; we expected the city to work on it and stay involved."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.