Gloucester will move a step closer next week to owning the site of a long-planned but never-built development that the city has fought for more than 40 years.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk and her administration will put a loan request before the City Council on Tuesday, asking for authorization to borrow $750,000 to purchase the 6-acre parcel at 70-74 Thatcher Road, essentially across from the entrance to the Good Harbor Beach parking lot.
The authorization, said Councilor Paul McGeary, lets the city apply for a local acquisitions for natural diversity — or LAND — grant from the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
That grant, if awarded, shores up the third leg of the nonprofit Friends of Good Harbor's plan to place the property, now owned by Brierneck Realty LLC, in the city's hands.
"All this does is tell the state that they're (the city and Friends of Good Harbor) serious about this," said McGeary.
If the council authorizes the loan, it won't spend the money unless Friends of Good Harbor can pull the funding together to reimburse the city and its taxpayers, McGeary said.
That follows a similar funding mechanism as the one used to cover the $3.5 million Newell Stadium renovation and reconstruction project. In that case, the city has bonded $1.5 million and fronted the initial cost for the project, with the Gloucester Fishermen's Athletic Association's Newell Renewal effort due to reimburse the city as additional funding comes in through private pledges and other commitments.
In April, the Friends of Good Harbor, a private, nonprofit corporation made up of residents who live near the beach, worked out a plan with Brier Neck Realty to orchestrate buying the property for $750,000.
Under the agreement, the Friends would pull together the funding and the city would ultimately own the property. The money, said Denton Crews, a member of the Friends, comes from three sources — privately raised dollars and a tax credit for the developer, Community Preservation Act funds, and the LAND grant.
During the sale process, McGeary said, Brierneck Realty isn't going to be penalized in permit or other fees during the sale process, or run out of time on its permits if the deal somehow falls through. The city, he said, has stopped the clock for Brierneck, headed by North Andover developer James Grifoni.
Crews said the Friends group had planned for the funding to come in three $250,000 chunks, but it didn't work out that way.
"You don't know what will happen at the state level," he said, "and we didn't know what was going to happen at the city level."
The Community Preservation Committee recommended $150,000 for the purchase, said Crews. That's over a third of the $319,000 Fiscal 2013 CPA funding. As of Friday, the Friends had raised $25,000 by themselves and received a $50,000 donation from the Dusky Foundation.
The Friends are till on the hook for another $25,000, said Crews, but they're hoping the state comes through with $375,000 LAND grant, with the announcement on those awards due in October.
"If the LAND grant doesn't come through," McGeary said, "the deal falls through."
Crews says that's not necessarily the case. If the state funding doesn't work out, he said, the group will pursue money from the Federal Wetlands Fund.
The town of Rowley, he said, received almost $1 million for a 250-acre project at Rough Meadows.
The Friends are pursuing the parcel as the gateway to a wetlands conservation area that would cover the 78 acres of marshland owned by the city and hopefully incorporate 68 acres of marshland owned by Old Nugent Farm.
Since the early 2000s, Grifoni has tried to develop the project through the state's Chapter 40B affordable housing legislation, which allows a developer to bypass local approvals if a project has an affordable housing component.
He won approval for it in 2011 — and the finding has withstood several city legal challenges. But the project has never gone forward.
"That land is key to this whole concept," Crews said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.