Barbara Anderson's CLT Commentary
We want to thank those activists who called their
legislators in June to oppose new legislation (S-146) creating Chapter
40T development zones.
We had opposed an earlier version of this last year, which had no public
hearing, but was attached to the “economic stimulus bill” during floor
debate. Hating as we do the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision on
eminent domain, we were concerned about language that allowed the use of
eminent domain by the governing boards of these zones. The bill with the
new districts attached passed but that section was vetoed by Governor
Romney (oh how we took those vetoes for granted before we lost our
friendly governors); his veto was overridden by the House but not the
This year there was a public hearing, which we didn’t know about in time
to attend: We have since been listening to both sides. We allied with
opponents until we had time to thoroughly analyze the twenty-nine (29)
pages of legislation, which Chip Ford and I have been doing since.
The leading proponent came to our office to meet with us, assuring us
that the eminent domain language had been removed from the legislation.
Since we fear that some eminent domain powers could be “understood” as a
legal given in this kind of legislation, we asked that specific language
be included stating that eminent domain would be prohibited to the
development district and unavailable to local governments for the
We were told there could be a floor amendment, but my calls to the
senate sponsor, Senator Dick Moore (D-Uxbridge), have not been returned.
So CLT remains opposed. We doubt that we will get a guarantee that this
will happen before it would be too late to fight the bill.
The best argument for the bill is that instead of local property
taxpayers funding the infrastructure improvements for the new district,
they’ll be paid for by the people in the development who choose to
purchase property there and pay the extra district taxes.
However, this is the most complicated piece of legislation we have ever
attempted to dissect and analyze. Proposition 2˝, which cut and limited
property taxes, cut the auto excise, created a rental deduction,
repealed two unfunded mandates, forbade new unfunded mandates, and
created two new state agencies to oversee property taxation and
mandates, was only five pages single-spaced.
As we struggle to understand all the implications of this 29-page bill,
we wonder how “let the buyer beware” can apply to something so lengthy
and difficult to understand. Shirley Kressel, a Boston activist who is
one of the chief opponents of the bill, likens it to the sub-prime
interest rate mortgages problem, which dealt with issues far easier than
a whole new -- for Massachusetts -- kind of municipal finance. Even if
these development districts work well in other states, we fear in
Massachusetts the law of unintended consequences will inevitably kick
To be fair: on its face, the bill can make sense, and rather than
explain it to you we will send you to the website put
together by its proponents.
One good argument seemed to be that municipalities
don’t want to impact their bond ratings with the bonding necessary for
infrastructure improvements. But when we checked, we found that the
Massachusetts Municipal Association testified in opposition to this
OPPONENT'S POSITION (A PDF Document)
Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view
We share these concerns, along with our original
concerns that were triggered by the eminent domain language in the
original bill that someone tried to get through without a public
hearing. Perhaps we are too cynical. This may simply be something new to
us that is fairly common in other places. If after viewing the
advocate's website you have an opinion, please let us know. We have
already checked out interesting questions from CLT activists, and would
also like to hear from CLT members who are developers themselves. Thanks
again to those who helped us stop this legislation until we could all
become better informed.
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