By Mike Stanton
In July of 2009 the Gloucester City Combined Planning and Zoning (P&Z) board had approved a Master Plan Reexamination report. In August 2009 Mayor and Council passed a resolution adopting that same report.
The report recommended the City prepare a new Master Plan “as soon as practical,” that money had been budgeted, and that work on the new Master Plan had in fact already started. Essentially, the need and intent to write a new Master Plan had been affirmed by both the Planning & Zoning Board and Mayor and Council.
Progress was made on the Master Plan in 2010 but the P&Z board took no action in 2011. When asked about the Master Plan at the January 18, 2012, P&Z meeting, the Chairperson replied there was no intention to pursue the Master Plan because Mayor and Council had not made it a priority for P&Z, nor had money been budgeted by Mayor and Council. This was confirmed at the January 26 Council Meeting.
The need for a new Master Plan is greater today, in 2012, than it was is 2009. For the city to abandon the Master Plan it had started is to have wasted the countless hours of the P&Z board members and the city department heads that worked on it in 2010 as well as the $78k in tax payer money paid to the City Planner for his work on the Master Plan (in addition to the $40k for the reexamination report).
The 2009 tax documents show there are just over 4,500 properties in Gloucester City with a total tax assessed value of $471million (excludes the value of exempt properties). Nearly half a billion dollars in tax assessments is a credible yet low ball dollar amount that represents the collective investment in the city by real people, taxpayers, the homeowners and business owners of Gloucester City.
The Mayor and Council, along with the Planning and Zoning Board, are the stewards of that near half billion dollar investment. Their ability to make good decisions and take actions to grow the tax base, improve the business environment, and to enhance the quality of life of residents are to a large measure dictated by our current zoning and development ordinances, which should be in alignment with a Master Plan.
The current Master Plan was prepared in 1995. It is 17 years old and is based on dated planning concepts, a dated city vision, and 1990 Census information.
To not invest in a new Master Plan to guide future development is more than a disservice to the residents and business owners of that half billion dollar investment – it is a failure.
What is the vision for the future of Gloucester City? Whose vision does it reflect? What are the development and redevelopment challenges facing the city? What are the development and redevelopment goals? Where are Mayor and Council leading us? Without a new Master Plan we do not know, nor do they.
Mayor and Council needs to allocate money and direct the Planning and Zoning Board to begin and to complete a new Gloucester City Master Plan “as soon as practical”.
The author is a Gloucester City resident and a community activist.