The idea of the city of Gloucester taking out a loan to put up the full $750,000 for acquiring the long-disputed Brierneck property across from the Good Harbor Beach parking lot may raise a few eyebrows when the request goes before the City Council Tuesday night,
After all, with Bay View fire station — not to mention Magnolia's — still regularly closed, and with school maintenance needs, especially at West Parish Elementary, this might not seem the ideal environment for shelling out another three-quarters of a million dollars to acquire much of anything.
But the truth is, the loan request being sought by Mayor Carolyn Kirk Tuesday night is a good deal for the city, and it's tied to an agreement that ultimately should not cost the city anything at all assuming that a local nonprofit preservation group is acting in good faith. And it will give the city control over a property that has, thanks to the state's hopelessly flawed Chapter 40B affordable housing law, been the subject of development tangle that the city and its residents can certainly do without.
At the core of the loan request is a deal between a citizens' nonprofit group called Friends of Good Harbor and representatives of Brierneck Crossing owner and would-be developer James Grifoni. In a nutshell, the Friends would raise money for the $750,000 purchase through grants and private donations, and put the site in the hands of the city, with eyes on maintaining it as a wetlands conservation site.
The Friends, however, have not yet come close to raising the cash. So the city, whose loan would make the project eligible for a $375,000 state land grant, would front the money while the Friends continue to seek other funds, which has thus far included a $50,000 grant from the Dusky Foundation.
If all of this rings a bell, it should. The formula is similar to the course the Gloucester Fishermen's Athletic Association and the city have taken toward the $3.5 million reconstruction of Newell Stadium — a public-private partnership we've cited in the past as a truly model project.
Now, the city and the Friends of Good Harbor are using that model for another significant deal that should benefit the city for decades to come. It's worth the investment.