The city’s still-vacant I-4 C-2 waterfront property will continue to be available for use only by businesses that are at least 50 percent water dependent, after a Gloucester City Council shot down a petition that would have pulled the property out from under the limits of the state’s Designated Port Area development rules.
An 8-1 vote last week knocked out at-large councilor and former mayor Bruce Tobey’s motion for change, with only Tobey voting in favor of asking local legislators to file a petition to change the DPA in order to eliminate Gloucester’s city-owned property from the designated zone.
The city bought the property in 2010, and it has continued a 40-year dormant streak since after a first round of formal proposal requests drew no takers.
Tobey said he had hoped the change might have helped give the city more development flexibility and further “revitalize” the downtown.
“I found it very disheartening that the council members were immobilized by what I can only describe as fear of change,” Tobey said Wednesday. “It’s up to the voters to decide if that is a satisfactory mood for their city council to operate from.”
As a part of the state DPA mandates, the land is limited to use only by companies whose operations are at least 50 percent dependent on the ocean. Marine research and education facilities are not included in that designation, preventing those types of facilities from utilizing the lot.
As a state designation, the zone, among other things, makes the city eligible for federal and state funding reserved for municipalities with properties within a designated port area. The designation is meant to support and protect working waterfronts.
David Bergeron, speaking on behalf of the Gloucester Fisheries Commission during the public comment period, said the commission opposes removing the lot from the port zone, and said the commission is working on a census of the commercial fishing fleet in the harbor and more long term planning for development.
Ann Molloy of Neptune’s Harvest, who also spoke against the proposed change, said that loosening the port designation could lead to a domino effect of hotels and yacht marinas plopping down on Gloucester’s coastline.
“The powers that be knew these are the two things that will ruin a working waterfront in a marine industrial port,” Ann Molloy wrote in a letter to the Times.
Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fisherman’s Wives Association, said during public comment that her association also opposed the change, fearing that it could be the first step toward Gloucester’s harbor becoming a non-working port.
Council President Jackie Hardy said at the Dec. 11 meeting that she had been favoring the petition, but with all speakers at the meeting opposed to the action, she had decided to vote against the motion to petition.
In addition to the city’s I-4, C-2 site, the Designated Port Area in Gloucester includes dozens of privately-owned properties.
City Councilor Joseph Ciolino said he voted against the motion because it was unfair to those in the private sector who are also part of the DPA, but would be unable to petition to remove themselves from the area, as the city could.
Other councilors suggested the action was “premature” or “jumping the gun” and were still hoping to find an entity that could utilize the property within the confines of the DPA as it now stands.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.