GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 22, 2013

City nets $400k for harbor land study

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — Gloucester’s Community Development Department can now offer inventory and scientific analysis of public and private parcels along and near the city’s harborfront, thanks to a significant federal grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The $400,000 grant allowed the city to sign a contract with Weston & Sampson, an environmental and infrastructure consulting firm out of Peabody.

“This project will give property owners more information about existing environmental conditions, which is valuable information for them as they plan investment decisions and as we continue to collaborate to diversify our working waterfront,” said Tom Daniel, Gloucester’s community development director.

Gloucester Project Manager Steve Winslow said the city would need permission to perform the scientific analysis on any privately owned properties. But, Winslow pointed out, the analysis could act as a good tool for owners looking to sell, rent, modify or purchase a property.

The grant also comes on the heels of news that the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has included a total of some $150 million in economic disaster aid to recognized fisheries — including Gloucester and other communities in the Northeast — for use in transitioning their fleets and “retooling” their harbors and waterfronts.

Gloucester’s waterfront differs significantly when compared to others in Massachusetts and elsewhere, in that the vast majority of waterfront properties are privately owned. In New Bedford, for example – Gloucester’s sister city in many ways in terms of its role as a commercial fishing leader — more than 80 percent of the waterfront is publicly owned, including some city-owned properties and a state fish pier that is not only much larger than Gloucester’s, but welcomes small to mid-sized cruise ships as well.

The grant won by Gloucester is meant to aid community and commercial development, so landowners who have created contamination on their own land and simply want a summary of the effects will likely not qualify for a chunk of the funds, according to Winslow.

“We want to use this as a resource to work with existing businesses and potentially new businesses to help revitalize the harbor in any way that is appropriate,” Winslow said.

The land analyses allow the city to create an inventory of the city’s waterfront, with a focus on industrial and commercial properties.

“It’s generally targeted towards commercial properties and industrial properties because that’s where you find the more complicated contamination problems,” Winslow said.

The long under-utilized I-4, C-2 dirt lot on Rogers Street could be a good candidate for an analysis, according to Winslow. The city recently performed a similar environmental analysis on a city-owned property at the end of Commercial Street, using different funds.

The city is still in the initial phase of putting the grant to use. The Community Development Department awaits applications from city property owners who want to use part of the grant.

“We need to get the word out to property owners along the harbor that might be interested,” Winslow said.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.