Cape Pond Ice owner Scott Memhard, by all accounts, can expect a full hearing Wednesday when he meets with a dream team of elected officials and city staff on his request to have his property lifted from the state’s Designated Port Area restrictions.
But it could be a while before he finds out if the city administration and Gloucester’s State House delegation will be willing to lend their support to his quest.
“I’m going in with an open mind, with the understanding he has made a formal request,” said Mayor Carolyn Kirk. “He will get a response from the administration. We will take a position on his request. What that position is, I don’t know.”
Kirk said she first wants to make sure Memhard understands the current harbor planning process, as well as the intricacies of the DPA review the city currently is conducting with the state Coastal Zone Management agency. The city last month was awarded a $400,000 federal Environmental Protection grant to carry out an inventory and analysis of public and private parcels along the city’s waterfront.
“I have a lot of questions for him,” Kirk said. “I’ll have my staff with me so we can engage in detail. Then my staff and I will huddle and we will get him an answer.”
And when might that be?
“If all our questions are answered and we’re satisfied we have enough information to make a decision, then it will probably be within a week,” Kirk said. “If it bounces to another meeting or more followup, it might take a little longer.”
Kirk and the city staffers will be joined at the meeting by state Sen. Bruce Tarr and state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante — both of whom say they are going into the meeting with open minds on the issue of whether Memhard’s request makes sense against the backdrop of current efforts to revitalize the waterfront and reinvigorate the city’s commercial fishing industry.
“I want to hear what his thoughts are,” Ferrante said of Memhard’s request for recusal from the city’s DPA. “It’s an interesting time for Gloucester Harbor as well, with the reduction we’ve had in the fishing industry, to take a look at everything.”
Memhard has two avenues for relief to his request and both run through the state. The first is as part of the current DPA review. Given the city’s participation in that review, that would seem a rockier road without the city’s support.
The second course of action would be through the Legislature, with the filing of a bill removing his property from the current DPA.
Ferrante, like Tarr, remained non-committal when asked Friday whether she would sponsor legislation to lift Memhard’s property at 104A and 106 Commercial St. from the DPA.
“I would need more information,” she said. “This is one of those situations where the devil is in the details.”
Memhard’s initial request for removal from the DPA came in late June and cited a number of areas where he believes the DPA has strayed from adherence to its own regulations, many of which dealt with infrastructure.
He also pointed out that the demise of the city’s commercial fishing fleet has left shore-side support businesses such as his marooned without an economic life raft, adding that the strict mandates — such as the requirement that at least 50 percent of DPA-included parcels have a water-dependent use — are a deterrent to investment and development.
The limitations of the DPA have also been cited by potential developers as reasons for not pursuing either a lease or purchase of the city-owned I-4, C-2 site on Rogers Street.
Memhard’s Cape Pond Ice is the first Gloucester waterfront business to formally seek a lifting of the DPA.
Sean Horgan can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT