By Sean Horgan
---- — Almost a year ago, city councilor Bruce Tobey tried to get a motion through the Gloucester City Council that would have instructed the city to pursue the removal of the city-owned I-4,C-2 parcel from the state’s Designated Port Area.
The result last December, at least from Tobey’s standpoint, was not pretty. The council delivered an electoral haymaker, voting 8-1 to quash his motion.
But Tobey and those seeking relief from the DPA’s constraints received at least a shred of redemption Tuesday night when much of the council reversed field on the issue, voting 5-4 to approve his motion to file a home rule petition with the Massachusetts Legislature to cherry-pick the undeveloped I-4,C-2 site on Rogers Street out of the city DPA.
“This one I think I can support,” said councilor-at-large Robert Whynott. “It’s time. We need to say, ‘OK, we’ve tried and now it’s time to try something different’.”
The 5-4 vote, while indicating a shifting allegiance from the DPA and mounting frustration among some councilors with the constraints on development that have handcuffed the city since buying the site in June 2010 for $1.5 million, still leaves the removal of I-4, C-2 a steep longshot.
First, it needs the signature of Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who said Wednesday she has not made up her mind whether to sign the measure.
“I haven’t come to any conclusions,” Kirk said. “My inclination is we need more consensus and I intend to see where we can find more common ground.”
That common ground on how to proceed with I-4,C-2, she said, might better exist within the context of ongoing deliberations of the Harbor Plan Committee and the DPA boundary review currently being conducted by the city and the Coastal Zone Management state agency.
“There are a lot of moving parts to this right now,” Kirk said.
State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said Wednesday he would feel obligated to file the requisite legislation if Kirk signs the measure, but the narrow support of the council could have a negative impact on the bill’s passage.
“It could be problematic because it signals a divided opinion about how the city should move forward on this front,” Tarr said. “It could make passage more difficult.”
Ward 1 councilor Paul McGeary seemed to crystalize the sentiment of the opposition Tuesday night when he said pursuit of legislation to remove the city-owned parcel is premature. He also referenced the backdrop of the Harbor Plan Committee’s mandate and the DPA boundary review by the city and CZM.
“The clock is not ticking on this one,” said McGeary, who was joined in his opposition to the measure by councilors Melissa Cox, Steven LeBlanc and Sefatia Romeo Theken.
Whynott, Ciolino, Greg Verga and Council President Jackie Hardy joined Tobey in seeking the DPA pullout.
Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT