By James Niedzinski
---- — Organizers of the Gloucester Gran Prix cyclocross racees are set to come before the City Council’s subcommittee on Planning and Development in a special session Thursday at 6 p.m. in City Hall.
The meeting will serve two purposes, officials say: It’s a follow-up to the site visit that drew race organizers, city officials and dozens of race supporters weeks ago, and it will let city officials take a look at the current application for the 2013 event, planned for Sept. 28-29. The meeting will be in City Hall’s first-floor conference room; due to an editing error, an initial story on the meeting indicated it would be in Kyrouz Auiditorium, but thta was incorrect.
City Councilor Greg Verga, who chairs the subcommittee, said Tuesday he hoped to hear from youth baseball representatives who use the Salvatore Parisi baseball diamond at Stage Fort. But the session will not be a public hearing type of meeting where anyone can voice their opinion to city officials.
Verga said the Planning and Development Committee will likely make a recommendation about this year’s event during tomorrow’s meeting.
“As long as we reach an agreement on what the expectations are, and (race organizers) do what they say they are going to do, we should be in good shape,” he said.
Even if the three-person subcommittee recommends rejecting the Gran Prix, it will still go before the entire City Council.
Meanwhile, Paul Boudreau, president of Essex County Velo which organizes the race, has also been in talks with officials from Salem about holding the race there, in addition to another community in Essex County, should the permits get denied in Gloucester.
But he reiterated Tuesday that his group has been working with the Department of Public Works to restore the park to city standards, and added that the DPW found the park was effectively restored earlier in the year.
“We have completed our work to the sanctification of the department,” he said.
When race organizers go before the full City Council later in the month, it will be a different process.
City Council President Jackie Hardy has called for a public hearing on the issue, which is not the norm when such events come before city officials, she said.
“This matter has drawn enough public attention that I feel the public deserves the opportunity to be heard on the matter at a City Council public hearing,” she wrote in an email to the Times. “However it is without a doubt that Stage Fort Park is such a valuable asset to this community and is one (of many) that we, as elected officials, need to continue to protect.”
Some residents and officials are concerned about the condition the park is left in after the two day racing event ends, and how quickly the park is repaired. Others, however — including Mayor Carolyn Kirk — have said the race is a valuable asset to the community, providing revenue for the city as well as local businesses while also raising Gloucester’s regional and national profile.
Race supporters have also questioned the amount of damage the bike race does to the park, as other events take place in Stage Fort Park and the race organizers do higher a landscaping company to carry out the repairs. But City Councilor Joe Ciolino has asked race organizers to put up a $10,000 bond to make sure the repairs are done in a timely fashion.
“The conversation should prove to be enlightening and hopefully show that progress has been made regarding all points of view,” Hardy said.
The next full City Council meeting is slated for Aug. 27 at 7 p.m.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.