Gloucester City Solicitor Suzanne Egan told members of the City Council last week that, if the city wanted to explore removing the city's I-4, C-2 property from state's Designated Port Area restrictions, it has a choice of options to pursue.
One would be through a petition to the Legislature. Another would be through a boundary review from the state's Coastal Zone management agency — where the city would have to show that, among other issues, I-4, C-2 doesn't fit with the DPA's needs or goals, that it wasn't simply added to the DPA within the last five years and that it is not currently home to a marine industrial business.
Taking those questions in order, it doesn't, it wasn't, and it's not. But all of that frankly leads to one basic question: when can we get these reviews started?
The fact is, the city should easily be able to make the case for lifting the I-4, C-2 site clear of the DPA development mandates that are strangling it every bit as much as the weeds that ran roughshod over its terrain for nearly four decades. And the city should be able to make the case that pulling out the I-4, C-2 site can be done without scrapping the DPA altogether, which would no doubt face intense state and local resistance.
The DPA, which still requires that at least 50 percent of all properties within its lines feature "marine-dependent" uses, continues to have a role along the city's waterfront. No one wants, or should want, every waterfront property to suddenly be put up for rampant, non-marine development that could indeed choke Gloucester's marine economy as well.
But the I-4, C-2 site is not just any waterfront property. For one thing, it is one of the very few sites that is city-owned — meaning the city, not a private owner, can control the type of development that goes there,
Gloucester's waterfront is one of just a dozen recognized designated port areas ion the state, and that's important. But a DPA need not put such deep constraints on development of a city-owned parcel that the city cannot pursue a use that local leaders might see as appropriate.
That's why the city should indeed push for freeing the I-4, C-2 site from the DPA's constraints — and it should get started now.