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R. Scott Memhard
Candidate Ward
Incumbent

1. Do you believe we have a housing problem in Gloucester? If so, whom does it affect?                                                                                                                                 

 

Yes, we have a housing problem in Gloucester.  Directly or indirectly, in affects all of us, in a wide range of impacts to families, businesses, locally affordable entry and workforce housing, and potentially limiting the unusual diversity of our economy and population.

2. What are your definitions of affordable housing and workforce housing? Who do you see as needing affordable and workforce housing in Gloucester?                                                                                                                         

 

Affordable and Workforce housing in Gloucester is housing that our teachers, adult children, support staff, and employees in our restaurant and tourist industry, etc., can comfortably afford to live in, rent or buy.  As you set out in your statistics below, It is technically defined as costing around a 30% of income for the Greater Boston Region, which is out of step and a burden with the Cape Ann seasonal economy.

3. Clustered housing: Do you generally support building more housing that is grouped, such as duplexes, multi-family, townhouses etc.?  If so, where do you see possibilities in the city for more clustered housing?

                                                                                                                        

Clustered housing generally makes good land use and infrastructure sense, while often maintaining more open space and buffer zones.  It could be sited in Gloucester almost anywhere, with adequate planning and zoning.  The Orchard Road, multi-duplex development off of Grapevine, is a new clustered housing project permitted in a generally single family neighborhood under our current regulations, although priced high-end and much more dense than the neighbors welcome.   Nugent Farm is one existing example of a well-designed 25 unit clustered housing development from the 1980's.  More recently, the Espresso's 8 unit housing project is an example of clustered housing, although it is both more dense and more expensive, but thanks to the City's zoning restrictions, it does contain one "affordable" unit.

4. When you speak with constituents (local business owners, employers, and workers) about income and housing prices in our community, what conclusions do you draw from those conversations?                                                                                                                            

Housing availability and prices are generally viewed as a growing challenge across the community.  Affordable homes and apartments, either to buy or to rent, are remarkable scarce.  This is a problem.  Real estate assessments, valuations and tax rates, particularly for properties near the ocean or with water views, are a burden on many fixed income residents, and to maintain properties that have been passed through families over generations.  Pressures of short term rentals and AirBnB's seem to be encroaching on  available year-round rentals.

5. What do you see as the major barriers in our community to creating more affordable/workforce housing? How do we overcome them?                                                                                                                               

Major barriers in Gloucester are the financial pressures of high values and development opportunities, but also inherent, protective conservative NIMBY attitudes, seeking to preserve the familiar and "known" from risks of change.  We do have adequate water, sewer and power infrastructure, and if we can somehow better address traffic and parking issues related to more housing, this would ease many real concerns.

6. How have your experiences, personal and professional, shaped your views on housing and land use in Gloucester? And what have you done in the past to address these concerns?  

                                                                                                                     

Personally we have been very lucky:  My wife was born and raised in Gloucester, first on Rocky Neck and then East Gloucester/Bass Rocks.  In the 1980's her parents were able to give us land to bring sewer service to and build a home on.  We in turn have been able to "sell" a 1970's summer cottage to a family member to winterize for their family year-round.


While serving as Ward 1 Councilor, i worked, ultimately unsuccessfully, to support a CPA-supported Habitat for Humanity duplex on Marina Drive.  As a Councilor I have also supported adoption of relaxed zoning recommended by the Housing Production Plan, including Accessory Dwelling Units.  Other recommended zoning changes I worked to support, including converting existing homes to 2-family by right, were publicly opposed and not supported by a majority of other councilors.

7a. What do you think is the best plan for meeting the requirements of the MBTA zoning?                                                                                                                       

 

Gloucester's Administration has taken initial steps forward for compliance with MA TOD,  and MA guidelines are still being revised (including commercial use on 1st floors).  We are now undertaking an updated Community Master Plan and community input/planning process.  The 2020 Master Plan was well done and had broad involvement.  It provides a good foundation for us to build on 24 years later.  I will work to support and implement zoning ordinance changes for Gloucester to be in compliance with the state requirements, and to avoid possible state funding penalties.

7b. What are your recommendations to update zoning in Gloucester’s downtown train station area (and West Gloucester station area, if applicable) to bring the City into compliance?            

                                                                                                                       

We need to go through a community process, engaging and educating, to embrace and implement the zoning updates mandated by the MA TOD in a way that best fits our community. 

8. Do you think that every neighborhood in Gloucester is contributing its “fair share” of housing supply for the city? If not, which neighborhoods do you think are not contributing their fair share, and how should the City address this inequity?      

                                                                                                                

Historically, Gloucester used to have many more two and three family homes, throughout all the City's neighborhoods.  Some were in-law apartments or barns and "carriage houses" that served as small-scale housing accomodations.  Limits for traffic and particularly parking have crowded many residential neighborhoods, for example downtown in Ward 2, and along the East Gloucester waterfront, as car ownership has boomed.  We need to provide more parking options and capacity, until we can reduce our reliance on private cars.

9. Where do you stand on two or three family homes across all neighborhoods to meet the housing needs of  the average Gloucester worker?

                                                                                                                                   

As a Councilor, I have worked and voted in support of two and three-family homes by right throughout Gloucester, for conversions just as we permit for new construction, within zoning and conservation regulations providing for setbacks, etc.  It would be helpful, and address some valid concerns, to incorporate  a process for notification to abutters and neighbors into the ordinance, to encourage constructive dialogue with impacted neighbors.

10. A recent attempt to propose new restrictive regulations on Gloucester’s Short Term Rentals failed to gain support due to lack of data and overall impact. What do you think the City can do, if anything, to restrict or limit short term rentals?                                                                                                                           

Councilor Gross's efforts to better limit and regulate short term rentals, while not successful, were a good start to the dialogue.  I believe tighter guidelines are needed for Gloucester, both to minimize adverse neighborhood impacts (parking, parties, noise) and to better protect the longer-term rental housing supply for the community.

11a. Housing policy is closely linked to other policy areas, such as transit, racial justice, environmental issues, and economic sustainability. What do you think of housing policy as it interacts with these other issues?  

                                                                                                                               

Yes, housing policy is closely linked to all these other areas, and needs to be balanced against vulnerabilities from sea level raise, accessibility and adequacy of infrastructure.

11b. Additionally, how do you think housing issues are affecting local businesses and employers?    

                                                                                                                              

We need affordable, local workforce housing to support employees of our local schools, businesses and tourist economy, as well as children raising families, and our aging parents and residents.

12a. Are there other specific housing initiatives that you think the City should prioritize?                                                                                                                       

 

I am concerned that we are loosing nursing home beds and capacity on Cape Ann, and that the senior assisted living facility targeted for Gloucester Crossing as part of their original permit has not been able to get off the ground in an economical public/private partnership.

12b. Do you agree or disagree that the City of Gloucester should do more to encourage housing production of all types, including both market rate and income-restricted? If you agree, how can the City encourage housing production?                      

                                                                                                                 

I Agree.  We must continue to work to educate our community and cultivate support to adopt two and three-family development and conversions by right, and other measures that have been recommended in our Housing Production Plan since the John Bell administration.

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