The City Council’s 8-1 vote not to seek removal of Gloucester’s I-4, C-2 waterfront property from the state’s Designated Port Area, or seek to ease the development limits it clamps on the site, looms as a pretty definitive statement regarding the sentient of city officials.
That’s especially the case since Mayor Carolyn Kirk also expressed opposition to the move by councilor-at-large and four-term former mayor Mayor Bruce Tobey to give the city more potential flexibility in attracting a developer for the site. And we recognize that speakers who addressed the council that night all urged the city’s top elected panel to reject any such action.
But the mayor, the opposing councilors and marine industrial advocates now owe it to all city residents to take new steps toward generating development for this iconic property.
For while there were great hopes 2 1/2 years ago when the city first acquired the property, the lot that had been perhaps the most visible sign of Gloucester’s stagnant inaction for four decades remains barren today, after a first round of requests for proposals failed to draw a single taker, in part due to the limits of the DPA. And the vacancy since its acquisition by the city in June 2010, lest we forget, comes after a $1.5 million investment in tax dollars – half of it through city property tax money, the other half in state funds funneled through the Seaport Advisory Council.
It’s nice to think that the city will find a viable developer who can invest in a project that meets the demands of the DPA, which requires that at least 50 percent of any property maintain a use that is “water-dependent” — and that someone will invest in commercial or industrial property that would still be owned by the city, then leased by the developer.
But after more than two more years of dormancy on a city-owned $1.5 million property, reality should start to kick in, and taxpayers have every right to see their elected officials expand options for moving this development forward and generating new revenue, not merely maintaining the status quo.
The latter, sadly, was the choice the council made last week.