By Steven Fletcher
A day after the still-empty lot at 65 Rogers St. came up from a three-month bidding period without a single proposal, one city councilor is asking the council to take a closer look at the regulations that might have stymied developers
Councilor-at-large and former four-term Mayor Bruce Tobey on Thursday asked city attorney Suzanne Egan and city planning directot Gregg Cadematori to make a presentation to the council about the legal and regulatory constraints on the I-4, C-2 property and what the city can do about them.
In all, 10 companies looked at the property and took out applications based on the city's Request for Proposals, but not one made a formal proposal when bidding closed Wednesday.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk sent out letters to the companies Thursday asking what turned them off to the parcel. Their response, she said, is necessary for the city to chart its next move.
In the meantime, Kirk said, the city will soon start charging for parking at I-4, C-2 with an eye toward generating revenue from the site, for which the city — bolstered by an $800,000 state grant — paid $1.5 million in June 2010.
Tobey said Thursday he sees basic issues with the site.
"There are at least three land-use legal straightjackets on that piece of land-locked land," he said.
The parcel is bound by the city's Marine Industrial zoning, the state's Chapter 91 zoning and sits within a state-labeled Designated Port Area. It's also been vacant for more than three decades.
In the aftermath of an unsuccessful Request for Proposals (RFP) process, Tobey said the city needs to have an informed discussion about that parcel and the regulations that govern its use.
Once the city knows why the 10 developers didn't respond to the RFP, he said, then it should look at how those regulations played into their reasoning.
The state's DPA regulations prohibit, among other things, any hotels or residential uses along the harbor. The regulations also require that anything built in the DPA devote at least 50 percent of its development to water-dependent marine industry.
Beyond that, Tobey said, I-4, C-2 doesn't offer a developer sure access to the waterfront. The city controls the upland portion of the parcel, but a developer would have to work with the city's Waterways Board for access to the water.
"We believe in a working waterfront, but the kind of uses in the DPA describes a working waterfront pretty narrowly," said Community Development Director Sarah Garcia.
She said a modern port includes uses that are traditionally in the Designated Port Area, such as commercial fishing, and some that aren't, such as marine science. Marine science uses that aren't necessarily water dependent aren't allowed in the DPA, she said.
"It's not enough to say it's the DPA," said Kirk, "that's too vague."
She said that, by listening to the developers who didn't make bids on the parcel, the city can find out what specifically made I-4, C-2 not worth developing. She said she wants to go into the review with some substantive information.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000, x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.