Tuesday, September 30, 2008
HOLD THE FORT!
An emergency call to save Gloucester’s historic Fort Square
A group of people from Gloucester (David Rich, Peter Anastas and others mentioned further on) recently sent us the following material on new zoning and urban renewal/destruction plans for Gloucester, things that Charles Olson fought tenaciously against. Let us always remember that Olson’s legacy is as much on the ground, among the people of real places, as ihttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gift is on the page. Think of any imaginative coalitions, venues for publicity so that this story can get off Cape Ann to a wider constituency.
If you want to get involved, please contact:
First e-mail from David Rich:
The local press and controversy on the rezoning has been intense and consuming. Much written, but nothing that's made it off Cape Ann. Here's an article written by art critic Greg Cook about photographer Ernie Morin's advocacy through his art:
here's an article from the Gloucester Times about the very heated and contentious city council meeting where Fort residents showed up en masse to protest the proposed rezoning:
On top of this, the mayor wants to lift the entire DPA: the designation that keeps Gloucester an industrial port, to transform the entire harbor into a recreational yachting and hotel center. For that she needs state approval, but to take Fort Square, which falls outside of the protected zone, she needs only a city council vote. We had a week's worth of meetings in Gloucester with a power-point presentation showing us renditions of what a 'renewed' Gloucester would look like: there was nothing left! All boardwalks and pleasure boats and quaint shops.
I could try to dig up those articles, regarding the DPA, from the summer. Right now, the Fort is her most vulnerable target.
Two articles that Peter Anastas sent in:
Fort residents deserve better than city's lip service
September 23, 2008 04:45 am
Gloucester Daily Times
To the editor:
This city is not a corporation that can be run by a CEO — and the rezoning of the Fort is a clear example of how not to conduct our business.
The residents and businesses were not consulted until September in a process that started in January and was conducted in an ivory tower. The city's economic development office did not visit the largest business on Commercial Street, an abutter to the hotel site, until the day after my slide show presentation to City Council on Aug. 19.
As far as I know, none of the residents were apprised of the city's work on the rezoning either. Posting something on a Web site for a neighborhood that is "old-school and offline" is not inclusive management.
An unprecedented 200 people showed up at a City Hall, organized, articulate, stating multiple times and for multiple sound reasons a strong and over-arching opposition to the hotel in a way that clearly was not merely a not-in-my-neighborhood stand, but one suggesting this would not be best for the city.
Yet, our mayor writes in her e-mail memorandum (The Times, Friday, Sept. 19), that "concerns raised about a potential hotel at the Birds Eye site I heard as questions — questions about traffic, coexistence, protecting the business interests, beach access, etc."
That is a problem; you cannot dictate from above to residents and the strongest part of your working waterfront.
Kirk makes the claim "I still believe a hotel is the highest and best use of that property." Yet the city has produced no financial data to back that claim — nor should it rezone based on one parcel's best use, even if she were correct, which is a moot point.
A city is a community of people first. We are not employees. This is not how you conduct public policy. Harbor hearings where you have three minutes to speak about "your relationship to the water" are nice events, but when you cannot ask questions, are told not to speak about zoning, and cannot have rebuttal — that is not a forum for generating this type of public policy proposal.
The people of the Fort are not living in denial. They know they need some change. But they want slow change, responsible, compatible change. They want what is best for their families, their businesses and for their city.
They have contributed a lot to this city. They love Gloucester — they have to live with circumstances most of the city would never want to endure in terms of traffic, noise levels, fish smells, and Fiesta's thousands of tourists — and they have learned to live and let live with the industry.
They deserve better from the city, and the city hasn't done jack for that neighborhood in years. Go look at the sidewalks, ask about water pressure, ask about the age of the sewer line, ask about the contaminated land, ask about the utilities for the industry, ask about the dredging, ask about any number of infrastructure issues.
These issues go back 25 or more years. The city wants to solve it with a quick fix. Well, the cure may well be worse for the patient than the disease.
We do not need political spin, we need and deserve a real analysis before we grasp at the quick fix.
The people of the Fort do not deserve a mayor who does not hear them speak when they speak in 100 percent unison. Anyone in Gloucester will tell you how impossible it is to get conflicted parties to an agreement. Here you have them in agreement with industry in a neighborhood where they have argued with each other for years. That should speak volumes.
This neighborhood should have the right to self determine what is an appropriate rezoning. I have trust in the Planning Board and Planning and Development Committee. They will now allow for a real process and involvement at this stage.
Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.
Fort residents on hotel plan: 'No, no', 'no and never'
By Richard Gaines
September 24, 2008 05:35 am
Worried about being gentrified out of their neighborhood and angry at a plan engineered elsewhere to rezone their world, residents and businessmen of the Fort mixed soaring rhetoric and pep rally techniques to tell city planners to go away and leave them alone.
"Everybody say 'no'," resident Clayton Sova implored in the middle of the three-hour meeting Monday night. "No, no," responded nearly everybody in the crowded Kyrouz Auditorium at City Hall.
They were saying no to the widespread notion that what the office of Mayor Carolyn Kirk and her Community Development Department have in mind for the Fort is an eminent domain sweep and new purpose — as the future home of a Marriott hotel on the site of the former Birds Eye Foods property and condos that will rob the isolated neighborhood of its gritty authenticity and soul.
City officials conceded that the hotel — a well-publicized possibility for months — played into the decision to begin the economic redevelopment of the waterfront at the Fort. But they did what they could to shoot down the rumors of condos, property takings and a try at ending the way of life on the Fort.
"There are deep-rooted misconceptions and lots of unfounded fear," Shawn Henry, a member of the Planning Board, which was meeting in conjunction with the City Council's Planning and Development Committee, said in an interview yesterday.
"They think they're getting the bums' rush," the Planning Board's Rick Noonan said yesterday.
A third meeting was scheduled for Oct. 20. The Planning Board is obligated to recommend a rezoning plan to City Council which has the authority to change the present all-encompassing marine industrial zone.
The passion of the moment was even hotter Monday night than it was a week earlier as the board and committee resumed the task of inching toward modernized zoning for a marine industrial enclave that includes archaic infrastructure and homes overlooking heavy-duty fish processors and empty lots. Kirk had raised the intensity with an e-mail following the first rezoning meeting a week earlier. In her message to the Planning Board and council, the mayor revealed that she hadn't heard adamant opposition to the hotel.
"I did not hear a resounding 'no or never,'" she wrote.
She did Monday night.
"Mayor Kirk," said Leonard McCollum of Ocean Crest Seafoods, one of the industries of Commercial Street, "I am here tonight to make sure you hear us this time. I give you my resounding 'no and never.' A luxury hotel and luxury condos would be a huge mistake on a road called 'Commercial Street.'"
He predicted the sensibilities of hotel guests would be offended by the sight, sound and smell of the industrial port, which has established a powerful line along the pier properties of Commercial Street.
Yet Kirk, the audience and city officials also heard a plea for a year-round hotel as an economic stimulus for the city from group tour operator Linn Parisi, who this summer created Seaport Gloucester, a destination marketing organization.
"We're not reinventing the wheel, there are hotels all over the universe," said Parisi, who this summer brought more than 400 motor coaches into the city and guided many of their passengers on foot through the Fort to get the flavor of the port.
She estimated each bus load was worth $10,000 in an overnight stay in a future hotel.
"It's a real place with real people and a working community," she said. "Because of what we are," reaction to the experience is "stellar," she added.
Hotel developers, who have met with Kirk, are watching the rezoning hearings carefully, according to Sargent Goodchild, the agent for the Illinois bank that last month took title to the former Birds Eye property from longtime owner Peter Maggio, Maggio continues to operate a cold storage business in the building where the concept of flash-frozen fish was perfected in the 1920s.
"A week to 10 days ago," Goodchild said, "negotiations were proceeding smoothly. Recently, they seem to have slowed down."
Kirk told the gathering that anyone for $3.5 million could acquire the property, which — while it is in a marine industrial zone — cannot be rebuilt as a hotel or used in ways that don't fit snugly with the row of businesses across Commercial Street. Those include Intershell, Mortillaro's Lobster Co., Felicia's, a full service facility for draggers, North Atlantic Seafood, Ocean Crest, Neptune's Harvest's fish product fertilizer, Cape Pond Ice and Parisi's off-loaded and retail fish.
"I don't think a hotel is going up there in six months, one year, five years or 10 years based on what I heard tonight," said Councilor Jason Grow.
The prospect of a hotel in the Fort is the most compelling but far from the only zoning dilemma facing the board and the council committee.
The marine industrial zone also encompasses the Fort's citadel of more than 70 closely packed, non-conforming homes and apartment buildings.
Residents objected to the Kirk administration's proposal to make the enclave a neighborhood business zone that welcomes residences and allows small businesses, an option that became the R-4 residential zone. But it would come with noise ordinance protection that could give residents a weapon to use against the industrial base along Commercial Street and Harbor Cove.
Then, there is the trial balloon for a theoretical harbor district zone along the largely derelict wharves along the outside of the Fort, where fishing boats off-load into Parisi's facility for shipment to the Boston Seafood Display Auction.
The new zone would add to the marine industrial zone use schedule by allowing recreational as well as commercial boating business activity. But property owner Rosalie Parisi said she preferred to keep the limitations of the old zone, except for a liberalization to allow for residential use on the second floor.
In contrast to the elected City Council, which writes zoning, the appointed Planning Board, charged with making recommendations, is expected to "look past the emotional arguments and do what's best for the city and the neighborhood," Henry said.
Board members Henry McCarl and Noonan used nearly similar words to assert their willingness to insulate their thinking from expressed emotion.
"People of the Planning Board definitely feel that way," said McCarl.
Richard Gaines can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.
Peter Anastas, Gloucester:
Testimony for joint meeting of Planning Board and City Council P&D
September 15 and 22, 2008
City Hall, 7 p.m.
There are two questions about the proposed rezoning of the Fort—and of the waterfront itself—I'd like to address briefly.
The first is about the language we're using. Slogans like "putting the harbor back to work" or "turning the lights back on on the waterfront" presuppose that the harbor isn't working and that the lights of commercial activity are out. Neither statement is true. Even with the worst federal regulations ever imposed on the fishing industry we're still working on Gloucester harbor. Millions of pounds of fish are being landed, boats from other Massachusetts ports, Maine and Rhode Island are unloading, there are two fish auctions, businesses like Neptune's Harvest are thriving and new businesses are starting up. This is not a dead seaport; neither is the fishing industry moribund or the waterfront "stagnant." These negative myths need to be refuted because they don't provide the facts on the ground we need for intelligent planning. Instead, they create a crisis atmosphere that allows only for knee-jerk solutions.
What I'm suggesting is that we reframe the issue, from crisis to opportunity. The collapse of stocks and the advent of restrictive federal regulations to ensure they recoup has forced the industry to downsize, creating hardship for boat owners, processors, ancillary businesses and individual fishing families. Fishing is not what it was thirty years ago. But Gloucester, a city of courageous, inventive people accustomed to hardship, has kept its waterfront working, knowing that our city still is and will continue to be an important hub port. We want to renew existing infrastructure and invest in new docking and processing facilities, not only because we need them now (every docking space assigned to fishing is currently in use—and we need more, right now) but because when the stocks recoup (scientists tell us they will by 2014—only six years from now) we want to be the people fishing for them, landing and processing them, not some other community.
Meanwhile, we're all working together, planning together, to protect our maritime heritage, our hardy character, and to bring in new marine industrial business, creating by-products and value-added commodities and encouraging hi-tech, research and bio-genetic facilities, all related to the sea. What we want to tell the world, and ourselves, is not that Gloucester is on the way out, but that we've turned crisis into opportunity and we're on the way up. Come and see for yourselves!
This is just a sketch, but I can envision it as the basis for a whole new pitch for Gloucester—re-branding the city, if you will, from a negative image of "the town where fishing once was," as so many people around the country have been led to believe by the Media, to a positive picture of Gloucester as "one of the premiere hub ports in the country," where citizens have taken their future into their own hands while preserving the best of their historic past.
With this in mind, let me turn to the zoning. The current proposal for the Fort puts the cart before the horse. It doesn't look at the fact that there are currently thriving businesses on the Fort, with the potential for more to come (how do we help them to stay here and grow); or the fact that real people with real lives live on the Fort, people who pay their taxes and are committed to their neighborhood. It is really a re-zoning proposal that would primarily open the way for a hotel with condos to be developed, no matter what negative social or economic impact they would have on the residents and business owners of the Fort. It is disingenuous to think otherwise. It's a case of development driving planning. Jam in a hotel and let the chips fall where they may.
This is not good planning. Real planning lets the community say what it wants where it wants it, and from there we go out and get what we need. Real planning looks at what's currently working, what is its history and how does it fit into the total ecology of the community. Real planning is not a knee-jerk response to a myth: fishing is dead, the waterfront is stagnant, let's sell it out for a hotel.
Real planning asks what should we be doing to promote Gloucester as a place to move or start a business in. Real planning asks how can we make it easier to get permits to fix up and maintain current properties. Real planning asks if we need to change the DPA, or if under the current DPA we already have the flexibility we need to keep the waterfront working. Real planning answers the question of how we get businesses to come to Gloucester right now, businesses that are compatible with the economic, social and physical character of the city; business that create year-round jobs with good pay and comprehensive benefits, not the service jobs of hotels that depend on the ups and downs of tourism.
Let's address these questions before we start rezoning the Fort and the rest of the waterfront out of existence.
I received an email last week from a close friend, a Gloucester native, who lives with her family now in Florida. She writes: "If Gloucester becomes soulless, then what hope is there for the rest of the country? This is what is wrong with the place where I live. It doesn't have a soul, and there is no one I've met who would even know what I'm talking about. It's heartbreaking." The Fort is the heart and soul of Gloucester. Let's keep it that way.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
The Fort and our Sense of Place, by Ernest Morin
A few weeks ago, I presented a slide show at City Hall to a few hundred people on a stormy Thursday night.
That show is rooted in a deep sense of place — the place being the Fort section of Gloucester. It is a part of town you could drive past and never really notice on land, yet it is quite prominent by sea or from the Boulevard.
One of the points I made during the introduction was that you could cut the Fort away from Gloucester and it would still be Gloucester.
It would still contain all the essential elements we have come to hold together as our notion of place.
It has industry, a tight-knit neighborhood with economic diversity, fishing boats, fuel docks, ice company, lobster sheds, a beach, the greasy pole, a brewery, a deep freezer, a playground, artists in residences, even a synagogue now, the Chamber of Commerce, Tally's Towing, St Peter's square ... How much more Gloucester could it be?
But if you take the Fort out of Gloucester then what does she become?
It is a valid question to pose because the mayor has asked the city to "fast track" a rezoning proposal for the area which inevitably will foster a lot of change.
What type of change is a matter of concern and deserves far more public debate.
The city wants to grow tax base, which is understandable; the question is how can you move forward and yet retain your sense of place?
How do you allow for change and yet retain your core values? How do we do it without selling our soul?
The fort is the most interesting place in the city — visually, economically and culturally it is a major contributor to the life of Gloucester.
The businesses on Commercial Street work at night or in the wee hours of the day while we sleep.
They generate more revenue and jobs than the State Fish Pier does for the city and they are family owned and operated local businesses.
They ship product world wide every day. If you drive down there though, you would swear it is empty because the activity is not visible on the street side — you have to go indoors to see the action.
The neighborhood has a long and rich history and a way of life and quality of life that is hard to match. It is perhaps the last working class neighborhood with ocean views and reasonably priced apartments on the entire East Coast.
The people are very real, know each other, help each other and look out for each other, which is rare in 2008. It is not a gated community of cookie cutter condos.
It is the neighborhood that contributes strongly to produce the Fiesta — that has a real cultural and economic value for Gloucester.
Can the area use improvements? Sure it can. Is there a way to move forward without clearing the decks and gentrifying the area? That is a real question for Gloucester.
So please go read the proposed changes for zoning on the city Web site and think about what the city is wanting to fast track. Are we indeed going to go forward in a way that retains our sense of place? Or are we going to begin the end and become another Newport, R.I., Monterey, Calif., or future bedroom community?
Will the rezoning affect and act to push out the waterfront business? Will they move to lift the DPA once they rezone?
We have real advantages as a regional hub port with our own fish auction.
We should not give up on our working waterfront quite yet, nor do anything that would serve to weaken our most economically viable area of the waterfront, either.
We are now truly standing at the crossroads, Gloucester. What is a city or its people without a deep sense of place?
This city is a very real place. We should be working to keep it that way.
(Ernest "Ernie" Morin is a Gloucester photographer, engaged in documenting the American experience, focusing first and foremost on the working life of his native city, especially Gloucester's marine-industrial waterfront, which is endangered by a fishing industry in transition and current plans for rezoning that could, if not carefully undertaken, threaten the heart and soul of the city. The above essay by Ernie appeared in the Gloucester Daily Times and the Cape Ann Beacon just as the city is poised to consider new zoning proposals for the Fort area of Gloucester Ernie writes about and has documented in individual photographs and a highly acclaimed slide show. Below is a review of Ernie's slide show by artist and critic Greg Cook, from his blog The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.)
Watching my Gloucester photographer pal Ernest Morin's "Sight Lines" slideshow at Gloucester City Hall Thursday night, I was struck again by how comprehensively and richly and honestly he has captured the city of Gloucester. It starts with his sharp eye (note the careful arrangements of lines and shapes, the use of signs to comment on the scene) and technical excellence, and winds up with him getting so deep into the marrow of the community that his photos, as a group, seem (even to Gloucester's residents) like some essence of the city itself.
We don't have artist laureates, but if we did, Morin would have to be the artist laureate of Gloucester. It is rare for an artist to be so thoroughly and successfully engaged with the nature of a community. In Gloucester, it's something of a tradition – from painter Fitz Henry Lane to poet Charles Olson to photojournalist Charles Lowe to poet laureate Vincent Ferrini (a great character, excelling more as a laureate than as a poet, who died last December). There is something about Gloucester being big and complex enough to be a city, but also finite because it is ultimately an island (there are only two roads – bridges – in or out of the place) that make it seem both intriguing and possible for a person to know it in its entirety (or at least feel they do). Its artists are drawn to take up this challenge.
Morin grew up in Gloucester, lives downtown, and haunts its streets. He's come to know the city as a boy and as a man, to know it with his feet and his camera. The result – if I may be allowed a pretentious literary allusion – reminds me of a passage from T.S. Eliot's (who summered in Gloucester while growing up) "Little Gidding":
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
--Greg Cook, New England Journal of Aesthetic Research
And this, sent in from Peter Anastas,
the testimony of a Fort Square resident:
To add to the material we sent re Fort rezoning, here is testimony presented by a Fort resident at Sept. 15 public hearing. It was great to hear the neighbors speak up, dozens of them all wearing "Hold the Fort" T-shirts, which Bill had created for the campaign to save the Fort. Bill lives next door to where Olson lived at 28 Fort Square.
My name is Bill Johnson, my wife Jennifer and I own 26R Fort Square. The property has been in her family since the 1930’s, I have to admit, I am a transplant from Pigeon Cove, my grandparents worked for the quarries and the B&M railroad- but I love the Fort, I personally don’t think there is any place like it. Jen is the fourth generation to grow up in our home, and we are hoping to begin raising a fifth there very soon. Jen’s uncle owns the house next door, where her Aunt and Cousins live. The situation is not dissimilar all the way around Fort Square, many of the families have been in their homes for several generations, and many of those families have their working roots in the currently faltering fishing industry. We are both working class people, Jen is a visiting nurse, I am a technician at Varian- we run our household on a budget. Most of the neighborhood is composed of working people. It is truly a unique area; and I am still learning to appreciate all of the relationships and workings of the neighborhood. I have to make it clear to everyone here that our house is our home, and what I mean by saying that is it is not a starter house or an investment property- if we can help it we intend to live out our lives there, and hand the property on to our children, or grand-children.
That being said, I feel as though the zoning plan which the city is proposing harbors dark consequences for maintaining this atmosphere. I have seen the harbor scenarios PowerPoint; it appears to have been created by people who are not familiar with the neighborhood. It seems as if someone thinks that by rezoning the neighborhood portions of the Fort to allow businesses in (shops, boutiques) that people will come and shop and enjoy the view. This sounds very much like another neck of land on Cape Ann which we are all familiar with- Bear Skin Neck.
The zoning proposal also brings many questions to mind- Has the city fully studied the economic impacts of these changes to existing businesses? A disturbing portion of the harbor plan shows a rendering of Commercial Street, across from the Fort Square entrance where several fish based businesses are operating and putting their land within the DPA to good and appropriate use, turned into shops! When the shops on Main St. can barely survive as it is, and the upcoming development of Gloucester Crossing threatens to potentially take even more business from Main St, Why do we need more shops? More shops are exactly what Gloucester doesn’t need. A question to the Planning board, does the current zoning proposal take these factors into account?
What of the 1999 harbor plan, and it’s 2003 addendum which states that the fishing industry will be in an upswing in 2014, when groundfishing quotas will increase…. Will this city’s waterfront be prepared to accommodate the increase in volume, or will the fish have to be landed and processed elsewhere? I am sure there are people in Boston, New Bedford, and Portland who would be glad to land that business, will the fleet have to be serviced elsewhere? All because we have re-zoned a vital Marine Industrial space to accommodate for the perceived need of tourism?
As for the hotel, does Gloucester need more hospitality jobs? Jobs which probably do not pay enough to pay rent let alone a mortgage on Cape Ann? We should look to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to our south, there are charities on those islands to try and maintain a population of native, skilled working people who cannot afford to live there due to median home prices being too high. Why can’t the city, perhaps with help from a citizens group, or a state grant for high tech jobs find an investor who would be willing to develop a mini business park here? Real, skilled jobs- let us look to the future, there are companies out there right now, working to develop algae that can grow diesel fuel as a renewable energy source- wouldn’t Gloucester be the logical place for a company like that to develop real, renewable energy from the city’s greatest natural resource- the Atlantic ocean? Let’s find a use for this property which coincides with the businesses and neighborhood which already exist on the Fort.
Do we need another hotel property which must closed in winter time, or worse, must develop condos and time shares to make its business plan work? Has the city studied the year round realities of the proposed hotel on Commercial St? Will the tenants and condominium holders of such a property put up with the 24/7 traffic which exists there? The occasional smells of a working waterfront? I personally think that what Neptune’s Organic does with fish waste is fantastic both environmentally and economically, but, it does smell once and a while….. If the former Birdseye property becomes inhabited by a hospitality based industry, with potentially high priced clients, how long will it take before complaints are made about noise and the traffic and the smells? These are all things that all of us on the Fort are familiar with, and for the most part embrace as coming with the territory.
If Gloucester really and truly needs a hotel downtown, why not work to make I4C2 (the abandoned lot between Gloucester House and the Building center) more attractive. The infrastructure in that area lends itself better to supporting a large business, it is centrally located, and there are less conflicting interests with abutters. There is even a dock there where the often mentioned shuttle from Boston could land, sheltered from the waves of the outer harbor, and also allow the dock to continue to operate as it is now. There must be a way to work with the state to cut through the red tape to put that site to an appropriate use.
How will Commercial St support the proposed Central Business Zoning and the myriad of traffic it could bring? In case anyone here is not aware, it is a dead end, which has only one way in and out- past Tally’s, where the tow trucks are perennially double parked, as those guys are just doing their job. Anyone here who has tried to get onto Fort Square at any point on any given day knows that the trucking traffic from the functioning fish based industries which currently exist on the street creates tie ups as it is. If a multi-story hotel is built on the Birdseye property, how wide will Commecial St have to be? And, If it must be widened, will the cuts be made into the Chamber of Commerce?, or perhaps Mortillaro’s…..is that really productive? Does the city leadership really prefer to make further hardships for companies which are currently doing their best to make a profit during the fishing downturn the industry is living through? I would also like to pose a question to the entire assembled group here- have you ever tried to make a left hand turn from Commercial St onto Western Ave on a Saturday during the summer? It is very difficult, as the local ecomomy exists now- this will no doubt become exponentially more difficult should further traffic load be added. These changes will also effect traffic on Washington St, Rogers St, and Western Avenue. This topic deserves much study before such drastic changes are enacted.
.How about Parking? If Fort Square and the eastern side of Beach Court are zoned to allow shops, where will their customers park? Obviously some will walk in, but we all know the city is not prepared to offer any more parking than already exists in the downtown area, this is another problem we are all familiar with. The zoning proposal on the table mentions no solutions to this obvious problem, this must be addressed before moving forward.
Not to mention the effects to the people of the Fort, whose families have been inhabiting the area for so many years. And what of the hotel which Sam Park intends to place at Gloucester Crossing- How many hotel rooms can exist in one place in the current business environment?
It strikes me that this change is a move for the quick money which the city so desperately needs- this need is undeniable. But, also to be considered is the bigger picture- the picture where our economy whether it be local, state, or federal is becoming increasingly service based. I don’t think we need more shops, more hotels, more restaurants, more boutiques, or more banks. We need industrial and technical jobs, in industries that don’t easily wax and wane with the state of the economy, the price of fuel, or whatever happens to be chique at the moment. We need to find and encourage jobs and industry which provide food, and the staples which everyone needs in their lives regardless of the state of the economy. Let’s find a company which does that and offer them a TIF, let’s not make it any more difficult for businesses already struggling to stay afloat. This is not done as easily as it is said, but, if the city continues to increase tourism’s piece of the local economy I believe we will see even greater swings in revenue than we do now. The importance of a local economy which is diversified cannot be ignored. Places with less resource and built in skills and talent come to mind, like Jamaica, where an impoverished lower class works in an almost completely tourism based economy. We have skills and resource here in Gloucester to do better than adding a handful of $10 per hour chambermaid and desk clerk jobs that could come with a hotel.
It is amazing to me that this proposal was put together without anyone asking direct questions to the residents of the Fort up to this point- money and time were spent drawing this proposal- city resources were used! Why weren’t I or my neighbors contacted directly, as we have a very large stake in what happens to our neighborhood.
What about character and originality? The current rezoning proposal represents a slippery slope towards taking away one of Gloucester’s greatest assets- it’s uniqueness. The friendlier we make our waterfront to high end condos, the more attractive it will become to this development-and a precedent could be set. It would not be an incredible reach to see the waterfront start to unzipper and fold under the attractive and lucrative one time profits that waterfront condos represent. Let’s keep the working waterfront working. Let’s work on the recommendations of previous harbor plan revisions- don’t toss them out for the possibility that a Marriot could end up in Gloucester.
All of the issues above are of great importance to the city, in both the long and short term, and decisions on issues of this magnitude should not be rushed. I respectfully submit the following requests:
-A traffic study, with full details showing how Central Business Zoning could exist on Commercial Street.
-Within that traffic study, an explanation of where and how parking will work, not just for the CB zoning on commercial street, but the proposed NB zoning on Beach and Pascucci courts, as well as Fort Square.
-An Economic Impact Study, for both Main St, and the Marine Industrial Businesses which are making their living already on Commercial St.
-Alternative concepts- give the citizens of Gloucester more than one option- this land can be put to good use, we need to be responsible about how we do that. I feel that there is a use for this space which compliments the existing conditions of the area.
-Direct contact and involvement with the citizens who lie directly in the area to be rezoned is critical- we have a lot to lose or gain from these changes.
- I personally want to know what is going to happen to my taxes if this zoning change takes place- I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one.
- How exactly, specifically legally, is Pavillion Beach affected? Who owns the water, the sand, and to what level? How will access to the beach be guaranteed to the public after development begins? Will a seawall have to be built on the beach to protect such a property? Are we, as an entire city, willing to give up this beautiful beach?
- How are rights of way affected?
There are a lot of groups on the Fort with sometimes conflicting priorities, but we all seem agree on one thing- the zoning proposal as it stands does not work for any of us. I would like to finish by re-iterating my position, which is that I just want to live here peacefully, and raise my children on a piece of property which will have been in their family for five generations. I would like to see the neighborhood preserved for what it is, a culturally unique enclave. I would like to see the city move forward, and some development is necessary for that motion- but let’s look really closely at it, don’t disregard former harbor plans and input from citizens and businesses, especially those most affected by the changes.
I thank the Council and the Planning Committee for their time and consideration.
Posted by Michael at 10:00 AM