GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 22, 2013

City, state officials weigh DPA, Cape Pond

By Sean Horgan
Staff Writer

---- — Cape Pond Ice owner Scott Memhard should know in about a week whether the city will support his request to have his Commercial Street property removed from the coverage of Gloucester’s Designated Port Area.

Memhard met for two hours Wednesday with city and state officials, including Mayor Carolyn Kirk and state Sen. Bruce Tarr, but left the meeting without receiving an official response to his request.

Following the meeting, Kirk was non-committal on whether the city would support Memhard’s request for removal, either through the current DPA review by the city and the state Coastal Zone Management agency, or by statute in the Massachusetts Legislature.

Kirk, however, said she and other officials at the meeting have “sufficient information to address a response” regarding “the extraordinary circumstances of this property owner.”

That response, she said, will come in a letter from the city that should take about a week to draft, based on Wednesday’s discussions.

Memhard had no immediate response after the meeting, except to say he felt the officials fully listened to his reasons for wanting to exit the DPA. Memhard’s lawyer, Meredith Fine, later reiterated that appraisal.

”The mayor and her team gave us a heck of a grilling.” Fine said. “She listened extremely hard to what we were saying, and we felt like they gave us a very fair hearing.”

Beyond that, she said, Memhard has no real expectation of what the city will decide to do.

”We wanted to be able to make our case and we believe we got the chance to do that,” Fine said. “This is not an easy or simple situation.”

For Memhard, the most encouraging appraisal of the meeting probably came from Tarr.

”Scott and his folks definitely made a compelling case,” Tarr said. “Now we have to sort out the best and fairest way to assist him.”

Kirk trotted out a full lineup of city officials for the meeting, including City Harbor Planning Director Sarah Garcia, City Community Development Director Tom Daniel and City Chief Administrative Officer James Duggan.

The state was represented by Tarr and Bradford V. Washburn, the assistant director of the state Coastal Zone management agency. State Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who originally planned to attend, was not there due to family issues.

Memhard and Fine were joined by Cambridge lawyer Arthur T. Kreiger, a specialist in environmental law.

Memhard is the first Gloucester business owner to request removal of his property from the mile-long DPA, having sent an email to Kirk, the Harbor Planning Committee and other officials in late June.

In that letter he cited various reasons for his request to be excluded from the DPA, including what he described as rampant infrastructure problems in one of the oldest and most cramped areas along Gloucester’s inner harbor.

But the chief reason for his request centered on the need to alleviate the regulatory and development constraints inherent in the DPA —including the requirement that at least 50 percent of any parcel in the DPA be dedicated to a commercial, water-dependent business.

Memhard, who currently uses about one-third of the available space on his parcel at 104-106A Commercial St. for his ice business, says that the 50 percent requirement is a deterrent to any future development on the remaining portion of his 0.8-acre parcel.

He is not the first to point to the DPA regulations as a deterrent to future development that could help recast the city’s waterfront in the wake of the Gloucester commercial fishing industry’s demise.

The same development restriction was cited by City Councilor Bruce Tobey as deterring potential developers from leasing or buying the city’s I-4, C-2 site when he filed a motion with the council to remove that site from the DPA.

Tobey said Wednesday that he plans to file an order at Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting asking the council to “endorse and support (Memhard’s) request for removal from the DPA.”

Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT