The last time city councilor and former mayor Bruce Tobey brought forward an innovative but perfectly logical proposal to lift the city-owned I-4, C-2 property out from under the development constraints of the state’s Designated Port Area boundaries, he proved to be the only one with the guts to support it.
Thankfully, by Tuesday night, the tide had turned (see news story, Page 1). And while there are absolutely no assurances that the council’s 5-4 vote — with Council President Jackie Hardy, Bob Whynott, Joe Ciolino and Greg Verga joining Tobey in support — will indeed lead to the waterfront, city and Gloucester taxpayers gaining the relief they deserve, the step at least firms up two things:
There is a growing level of support and awareness for reforming the DPA’s development handcuffs on Gloucester’s waterfront.
That city officials — at least now a majority of the council — are willing to give serious consideration to requests from property owners, including the city, to seek such relief on a case-by-cases basis. That’s precisely the way these issues should be handled.
As we’ve noted previously, the case for DPA relief for owner Scott Memhard and Cape Pond Ice is a classic example of the harm the DPA’s marine industrial limits can cause; thanks in large part to the government-driven virtual collapse of Gloucester’s fishing industry, he can no longer effectively or efficiently use his Commercial Street space, nor can he carry out a viable sale of his property. Thankfully, Mayor Carolyn Kirk and local state lawmakers Bruce Tarr and Ann-Margaret Ferrante have all recognized that, and the council added its support to that effort Tuesday night.
But while the council’s call for an I-4, C-2 DPA pullout is “problematic,” as Tarr noted — a 5-4 vote is hardly a ringing consensus, there’s been no real public hearing on the proposal, and it’s unclear whether Kirk will back the plan — it is a bold step on behalf of taxpayers who, lest we forget, have paid the freight for this $1.5 million site that, to date, has not attracted a single viable bidder or developer in more than three years since the city’s purchase.
Let’s hope that, by this action, the council has laid the groundwork for the kind of waterfront flexibility the city needs for this property — flexibility the city needs, and the taxpayers deserve.