By this time next summer, the city of Gloucester should be reeling in the dough from some 115 marked parking spaces on the I-4, C-2 lot off Rogers Street — assuming, of course, that the site isn’t then home to the kind of major development project the city is seeking for the site.
Either option, of course, would mark a significant improvement from the comedy of errors that has unfolded over the city-owned waterfront property this year.
But while there is little that can be done now to fix the latest I-4, C-2 snafu, the complications arising from this botched attempt at using it as a temporary parking area should serve as a reminder to all city officials to cross their t’s and dot their i’s before moving forward.
The city three weeks ago installed a set of new parking kiosks to replace meters that were taken out of Rogers Street and some downtown city parking lots during construction of the new HarborWalk this spring. And two of the kiosks were placed on the I-4, C-2 lot, the long dormant property between The Gloucester House and Harbor Loop that the city is still seeking to develop.
But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the collections office, and after the I-4, C-2 kiosks were already put in place.
A check of city ordinances found that the city never recognized I-4, C-2 as a parking area, let alone get City Council approval for charging for its use. Last week, Ward 2 Councilor Melissa Cox put through an emergency order that indeed allows its use for parking for 60 days — laughable, considering it’s been used for precisely that for the last two summers. But that ordinance doesn’t allow the city to charge for parking on the site. And, lest anyone ask, if development recruiting continues to run dry, the city cannot use the I-4, C-2 property as a permanent parking site anyway. That’s one of the uses banned under the state’s Designated Port Area mandates — and I-4, C-2 sits right in the middle of the DPA.
Look, the city should be sending out its new request for proposals to seek real development on the I-4, C-2 property within the next few weeks. So there is every hope that, by next summer, parking on this site will be among the things farthest from anyone’s minds.
But it’s troubling, to say the least, that neither the mayor’s nor the solicitor’s office knew of these restrictions before pushing for metered parking on the lot and both buying and installing the meter kiosks in the first place.
Let this saga be a reminder for all to check Gloucester’s own guidelines before launching into any new use of city property.