The city of Gloucester set up one of its parking kiosks at the entrance two weeks ago, but the city-owned I-4, C-2 lot at 65 Rogers St. will remain a free parking lot for the rest of the summer.
A black trash bag now covers that kiosk, one of 11 that the city installed along Rogers Street and in a few other downtown area two weeks ago.
While the other meters started printing passes and collecting revenue earlier this month, the city found it couldn’t charge for parking on I-4, C-2, the long-dormant property that sits between The Gloucester House restaurant and Harbor Loop .
City Council Vice President Sefatia Romeo-Theken, who heads the council’s Ordinance and Administration subcommittee, said the property had, quite simply, never been designated as a municipal city parking area. While other municipal parking lots are listed in the city ordinances, I-4, C-2 wasn’t until last week.
At last week’s council meeting, Ward 2 Councilor Melissa Cox put forward an emergency order that made it an official parking lot. But an emergency order runs out after 60 days, so Cox’s order only allows the city to enforce parking regulations at the site, not charge for parking on it.
Cox’s order includes provisions for 115 parking spaces, including five spaces designated for those with disabilities. According to the minutes of the Aug. 14 council meeting, Cox asked for the emergency order so the lot could be properly lined, noting that the wide-open parking free-for-all turned into a public safety hazard during events like the Sidewalk Bazaar and the Downtown Block Parties.
Over the weekend, however, there weren’t any lines on the half-empty dirt lot — though cars parked on it appeared to have been placed in orderly lines, with no charge.
The status of the lot rests in the hands of Romeo’s Ordinance and Administration committee. She said Mayor Carolyn Kirk put forward a proposal so the city can charge for parking on the site. The city, said Romeo, plans to charge enough for the lot to be self sustaining — though she added that neither the council nor the city intend for the lot to be a “cash cow.”
Kirk declined comment on this story, except to say that what happens with parking on the lot is up to the City Council.
“(We want it) just to sustain itself, until we figure out what we’re going to do with it,” Romeo-Theken said.
The council, she said, will hold a public hearing on lot’s hours and fees in late September. The proposed fees for the site will be consistent with other parking kiosk lots, Romeo said.
The city, meanwhile, has another Request for Proposals for the site planned for release at the end of September.
The city’s first RFP effort didn’t attract a developer. Gloucester purchased the site for $1.5 million two years ago, about $800,000 of it coming from state Seaport Bond funding.
When the city acquired the property, Romeo said, the lot came with two conditions. It couldn’t be a permanent parking lot, and it couldn’t be a park. Any parking lot on the site would have to be temporary, so long as the city is actively pursuing development on site.
Romeo said no one on the council wants to see that lot stay a parking lot for any length of time. But, for the moment, she added, it’s free parking.
“It’s not going to be (making) money this season, anyway,” she said.
Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StevenGDT