It’s clear from Gordon Baird’s most recent rant-posing-as-a-column (”The city you lose might be your own,” Sept. 19) in the Gloucester Daily Times that fact-checking is not required of Times contributors. Were it so, we would have been spared a litany of inaccuracies and out-right falsehoods and we may too have been spared the ad hominem attacks leveled at Mayor Greg Verga, CAO Jill Cahill and myself.
There are some who seem to think that Gloucester can simply stamp its collective feet and wave the middle finger at the rest of the Commonwealth. While that may have a certain rebellious buzz attached to it, the reality is there is serious work to be done to respond to the mandate with the least impactful, and best outcome possible for Gloucester. From water treatment, to storm drains and now housing, this city has kicked the can down the road for years. The state mandates when communities fail to act on their own. As elected leaders, our job is to solve the problems that have been avoided for far too long, not shove our heads in the sand.
There is nothing in the law that requires that a community build ANY units, only that it provide for zoning, developed and determined locally, that allows for the creation of multi-family housing.
Occupancy rates are determined by state health codes, not zoning ordinances. The wording is intended to ensure that communities don’t skirt the intent of the law by zoning for only studios or housing not conducive for family occupancy.
Parking requirements are not eliminated, nor are other safeguards such as setbacks and height restrictions. By-right zoning requires that the property owner has a conforming lot in order to build as of right and that means adhering to the zoning ordinance as defined locally.
And while this issue may be unpopular, our housing problems will remain as long as we fail to act. Working families, our children and seniors will continue to be pushed out, small local business will continue to struggle to find workers, because only the wealthy will be able to afford to live here.
It’s true that my family moved to Gloucester from California nearly 23 years ago — although two of my children were born here — and all my children proudly went through Gloucester Public Schools. We moved in large part because of the very same conditions Gloucester is facing today. Great wealth moved into San Francisco with the rise of the dot.com bubble and in short order, young families like ours, the middle class, the working class (and anyone who couldn’t find a way to afford the sky-rocketing rents and home prices) found themselves unceremoniously run out of town. This is the crossroads we find ourselves here, in our beloved Gloucester. Now.
Gloucester and the rest of the region — and indeed the nation — has a serious housing crisis. The continued response by communities to fight any and all changes to zoning (along with not responding responsibly to encourage affordable housing) is exactly why Gloucester is in this situation.
We are a working city that needs housing so our seniors can grow old in place, so our children can afford to stay and raise their families, and our workers, teachers, first responders, and restaurant workers can live and work in this city we all call our home. Our community would be better served by working together to find solutions, not spreading easily debunked false information.
Gloucester is changing. Housing costs have skyrocketed. Continuing to do nothing will destroy Gloucester far more quickly than finding ways to keep our community vibrant, diverse and welcoming to people of all socio-economic levels. To do nothing will mean that only the wealthy can stay or move in, unless of course you agree that’s the kind of Gloucester you envision. Gloucester has always been proud of her working roots, and we need to work together so that all residents of Gloucester can live, work, and grow old in this beautiful city we call home.
Jason Grow, City councilor at-large, Gloucester