GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 26, 2013

City eyes I-4, C-2 for paid parking

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — Gloucester’s waterfront I-4, C-2 lot, where many have found a free space to park over the past two years, could soon become a temporary metered lot if the city has its way.

City officials have applied for a state permit to allow such use of the 65 Rogers St. site because the state insists the city have a permit to charge for parking on the 95-space waterfront lot while the city searches for a person or company interested in developing the property, according to Harbor Planning Director Sarah Garcia.

The city actually installed a metered parking kiosk to charge visitors for the use of the long-vacant lot, but the state shut down any city plans to charge for parking at that time.

Garcia said that, if the city gets a green light to charge for parking on I-4 C-2,the lot will remain unpaved and as is. The city’s application claims space for parking up to 95 cars.

”We’re all ready to go ... We’ve been using it as a parking lot and we’d like to be able to charge,” Garcia said. “The state just said that, if you’re actually going to meter it, you need to get a formal permit.”

Gloucester residents, meanwhile, will have their turn to speak on the temporary parking lot application at a 5 p.m. hearing Thursday at City Hall, with the hearing before the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Waterways Regulation Program, the board that will approve or deny the city’s application.

Should fewer than 10 citizens comment at that hearing or submit comments in writing within 30 days, the state would waive any right to any formal court hearing.

The state board, however, will also invite Garcia to speak on behalf of the plan for a temporary lot at the hearing. Garcia must prove that the city has been and will continue searching for a marketable use of the land, which is within the state’s Designated Port Area (DPA).

The port area designation requires that any permanent use of the property be at least 50 percent dependent on the water — and use as a paring lot is not among the allowable long-term uses. But the city can apply for a temporary permit that would allow nonwater-dependent use and would last up to 10 years, according to Garcia, and that’s where the temporary parking application fits in.

”We could ask for less, but we continue to keep marketing it, anyway,” Garcia said. “So why put us in a position where we have to apply for more permits when we could be in the driver’s seat?”

The city first distributed a Request for Proposals for development of the I-4, C-2 site in September 2011, but received no responses on that request. A new Request for Proposals is in its final stages, with the city having sent the request back to Mayor Carolyn Kirk, seeking a more clear marketing plan, according to Garcia.

Garcia said Monday that the city hears of interest in the lot, with the proposed new RFP aimed at allowing a developer to either buy or lease the site from the city. Still, a temporary, unpaved parking lot use will keep the possibilities for any property development open, and would enable the city to generate revenue from the property, for which it paid $1.5 million in June 2010 through a split of city and state taxpayer dollars.

”It’s accepted that you won’t always have the right industrial use (this summer),” Garcia said. “Parking is considered ideal temporary use because it doesn’t get in the way of any future plans.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.