By Marjorie Nesin
---- — The Gran Prix of Gloucester races have moved a big step closer to a starting line after a City Council subcommittee voted unanimously to recommend permitting of the Stage Fort Park location to the full council.
Greg Verga, chair of the subcommittee on Planning and Development that will recommend approval of the permit application to the full council, said Monday that a review of the park’s condition after last year’s race led the three-councilor panel to agree on recommending that Gloucester host the event again.
“We’re all on the same page about what the expectations are and what the limitations are going to be going forward,” Verga said.
The application had grown controversial over the concerns of some residents regarding bumps and lumps in the Stage Fort Park field, as well as other issues, that followed past races.
The recommendation, however, includes some assurances for people concerned about the condition of the park post-race.
“We did plug in several conditions, the key of which is a bond,” Verga said.
City councilor Joe Ciolino had originally recommended a security bond to ensure coverage of post-race cleanup costs.
Though the subcommittee councilors inadvertently left off the specific dollar amount for the bond in their recommendation, Verga said the councilors would probably insist on the $10,000 recommended by Ciolino and previously discussed by council.
Along with the subcommittee’s recommendation, the council will also consider input from residents at an Aug. 27 public hearing to proceed their final vote on whether or not to approve the permit. The Gran Prix is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28-29.
Paul Boudreau, race director for the Essex County Velo group that organizes the event said Monday that he cannot fully commit to Gloucester until he has answer on the permit.
“Nothing is final until the City Council gives its approval. Up until that point, I’m working on multiple sites,” said Boudreau, who has explored Salem Willows as a potential alternative site if Gloucester declines to issue the needed permits in time to firm up race plans.
The race, which Essex County Velo has held in Gloucester for years, draws what Boudreau estimates as 900 participants and 2,000 to 3,000 spectators. Boudreau said his team is looking closely at working out the bond deal the subcommittee recommends, and hoping to work with Gloucester.
“Gloucester is my first choice,” Boudreau said. “This will be our 15th year, so I don’t look at other venues lightly.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.