To the editor:
Our revered historian, Joe Garland, once stated that West Gloucester was known as “the place that time forgot.” Unfortunately irresponsible developers have not forgotten, and the mayor, City Council and the boards have been in full support of their projects.
West Gloucester is ideal for development — large tracts of open land, proximity to the highway, desirable views. Tax revenue! Most often a special permit or variance is required, and it is clear that the boards — with the encouragement of the city’s elected officials — are more than willing to work with favored developers to minimize the hurdles moving a project forward. But what are the consequences of the exceptions made to the zoning laws? You may be shocked to see the blight that has been created.
Learn what your city is doing. Take a short ride. Get off at Exit 13 and head toward Wingaersheek. Follow Concord Street, and go straight at the intersection of Atlantic and Concord. Your first stop is not a development issue. It is an environmental issue, emblematic of the city’s neglect. Just past the iconic Marshall’s Farm Stand on your left is now arguably the most unsightly piece of land in all of Gloucester. Until recently there were only woods with a perennial stream running through it. It has been transformed into a major league stump dump and mulch processing operation, all pouring nitrogen into the steam. Logs, brush, mulch and debris are piled high, right to the edge of Concord Street. It is an environmental disaster in full view (minimally disguised for the moment by summer foliage), and something that would never be tolerated on the other side of the cut. It is thinly disguised as a “farm” with a few alpaca roaming around a small pen.
Get the Advil out. Immediately on your right you will see the next disaster, most likely a result of special permits and variances for one of the city’s favorite developers, Michael Carrigan. Two weeks of blasting was needed just to get access to the building lot. The result is an unimaginable carving through ledge, a poor re-creation the Colorado River cutting through the Grand Canyon. The 25-foot-plus ledge that hovers over either side of the new driveway has to be seen to be believed. The driveway, after making a steep descent and 90 degree turn, eventually drops parallel to Concord Street, making it impossible for a driver to make a right hand turn onto Concord. The blind curve just before the driveway will add to the constant entertainment. The result will be one happy developer, one (or many?) content homeowner, devastation to the environment, and a blight and danger (there has already been an accident at the foot of the driveway) that will never go away.
If you care to see more of Mr. Carrigan’s inspired work, proceed a short way and then take a left on Bray Street. About 100 yards up the road on the right side there are two houses that have been recently built. Perfectly fine houses, but the price that the environment had to pay to build these homes is unjustifiable. You can see the remnants of blasted ledge everywhere, and can only imagine what once was.
For the grand finale of your tour, proceed past the mailbox on 118 Bray and look to the right. Carrigan is at his best here with perhaps his most outrageous plan. Try to envision 12 houses crammed onto three acres of steep ledge with a communal leaching field that is perched over a stream feeding the Great Marsh. (The area is zoned R40.) The Planning Board thought it was a great idea. The magic of disingenuous cluster development. Only an appeal to the state Department of Environmental Protection has slowed the progress of this inconceivable project. The second submission of a stormwater plan is now under review; there seems to be an issue with the discharge flowing over ledge, over a designated public walking trail, and into a vernal pool/beaver pond that then flows into resource waters. That is only the beginning of problems facing this project. You will need a vivid imagination to understand how this could possibly work and how the city got conned on this one.
Not long ago this stretch of the narrow, winding, tree-lined “‘Round the Parish” road in West Gloucester was one of the most scenic areas on the North Shore and a pleasure to drive through. It is now decimated. West Gloucester — all of Gloucester — is systematically being destroyed. Joe Garland saw it coming: After giving a beautiful description of the pristine nature of West Gloucester, he commented, “How long West Parish will remain so in the face of avid and determined developers depends on the resolution of the community as a whole.” The city has failed, miserably.