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September 6, 2013

City panel backs lifting DPA for Cape Pond

Two weeks ago, the city’s Designated Port Area seemed inviolable to change, and Scott Memhard could all but hear the beating of the vultures’ wings above his Cape Pond Ice property on Commercial Street.

Now, after a fortnight’s flurry of activity on the city and state level, two things are clear: Memhard’s fighting chance for saving his business will be decided by the Massachusetts Legislature and the DPA, long considered sacrosanct in its boundaries and concept, could undergo its first modifications.

When Gloucester city councilors sit down for their regular session Tuesday night, they will be greeted by an agenda that includes two items seeking to remove properties from the mile-long DPA.

One asks the council to join Mayor Carolyn Kirk and the city’s state legislative delegation in supporting Memhard’s request to have his property at 104 and 106A Commercial St. removed from the DPA to escape from its strict constraints on development and business use.

The other proposal, which has been visited before, will ask the council to vote to file a home rule petition with the Massachusetts Legislature to remove the city-owned, undeveloped I-4, C-2 parcel on Rogers Street from the DPA.

Both of those measure were put forward by city councilor Bruce Tobey and unanimously approved Wednesday night by the council’s Planning and Development subcommittee.

Taken together, the two measures represent the first viable attempt to materially change the DPA since the district was drawn and its regulations enacted more than three decades ago.

This is Tobey’s second attempt to remove the I-4, C-2 parcel. His first, in December 2012, went down in flames in an 8-1 council vote that had Tobey as the only supporting vote.

What has changed in the intervening period to give either or both of these measures a fighting chance?

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