, Gloucester, MA


September 27, 2013

Editorial: Mayoral DPA veto of I-4, C-2 changes a lost opportunity

Mayor Carolyn Kirk makes a valid point in noting that the 5-4 City Council vote aimed at pulling the city’s I-4, C-2 property out from under the constraints of the Designated Port Area shows a “divided council.”

While that vote — coming alongside the council’s endorsement of similar DPA relief for owner Scott Memhard and his Cape Pond Ice company — marked a sea change from an earlier measure on which only Councilor Bruce Tobey backed an I-4, C-2 pullout, it hardly represents the kind of consensus state lawmakers might expect in granting DPA relief.

But we may never know now whether the needed endorsement of the mayor, on top of the admittedly narrow council vote, would have convinced the Legislature of Gloucester’s true economic needs.

That’s because, instead of acknowledging the tight council vote, yet seeing the need to take dramatic action, Kirk instead vetoed the council’s resolution to seek a state-granted home-rule petition. And that can only be called an opportunity lost for a city-owned property that, instead of spurring the waterfront growth and development taxpayers may have expected when they bought the site more than three years ago, is becoming more and more of an albatross each day.

Kirk cited an ongoing, grant-funded waterfront property survey as among the reasons for holding off any dramatic changes for the I-4, C-2 site. Yet a city consultant preparing a presentation for the city’s latest Harbor Plan Committee noted that the future of Gloucester’s waterfront might be “more about what you can do than what you want to do.”

That’s clearly because of the long-outdated DPA marine industrial requirements, and that’s not a good message to send residents and potential developers who simply can’t work within the DPA’s mandates of using at least 50 percent or any property for water-dependent, marine industrial operations.

Look, pulling the city’s $1.5 million I-4, C-2 property out from under the DPA’s umbrella would be a dramatic step.

But when will the mayor and other councilors learn the time for drastic steps haven’t just arrived for I-4, C-2? In fact, it’s already past.

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