Saturday, February 18, 2006

Commercial Development

In a letter published in this week's Milton Times, an opponent of commercial development at the DPW Yard wrote: “Our taxes are on a par with Walpole, Randolph, Braintree, and Dedham.” This is simply not the case.

The current average single family tax bill in Milton is $5470. Walpole’s is $4727, or 14% less than ours. Dedham’s is $4486, or 18% less than ours. Braintree’s is $3054, or 44% less than ours. Randolph’s is $2976, or 46% less than ours. Despite average residential tax bills 18% to 46% less than ours, all but Randolph spent as much or more per capita in 2004 on services for their citizens. How do you suppose they did that?

Just as it is patently untrue to claim that commercial development will not produce important revenue for Milton, so too is it wrong to suggest that a modest amount of commercial development will destroy the character of Milton. The RFP for the DPW Yard, which will be issued once the Inspector General’s office dismisses the abutters arguments, is the product of 10 months of a thoroughly open process. The proposals received will be properly analyzed, and all the potential impacts on the town studied. Should the town choose to pursue the commercial development we so desperately need, there is no reason to expect that we can’t have the same kind of tasteful project which other towns like ours enjoy, perhaps including some of the same amenities, which we have long lacked.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Attention Miltonview blog readers. Phillip's view on commercial development and the RFP is heavily biased. Read everything he writes on this subject with a grain of salt.

The editorial in the Milton Times irked me. Phillip argues our tax bill is 18-46% higher than neighboring towns. This true, but very misleading.

Tax Rates for 2005:
Milton $10.54

Randolph $9.80
Quincy $10.84
Braintree $8.38

The average home value in Randolph is in the low $300’s and Milton is in the mid $500’s. So, yes, there could be a 46% difference in the final tax bill. The highest assessed average home value belongs to Milton. Ask yourself: Why?

10:50 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

I can see why "anonymous" was irked by the Times letter, since it properly compared the tax burden of the towns mentioned. The tax burden for homeowners is what they pay. People pay dollars, not rates. Using anonymous' logic it would be misleading to point out that the town of Weston pays $12,865 on average, since its tax rate is $9.95, less than Milton's.

This would be ridiculous, of course. The proper comparison is single family tax bill, which is why the state and private entities use if for just that purpose.

As for bias, if you mean preference then you are correct. I have a preferenc for commercial development at the DPW Yard. That's hardly a secret. And I've spent considerable time laying out what I feel is a very strong case for it given the Town's needs. In the course of this I've had to address arguments made primarily by abutters who have their own interests guiding their preferences. My readers can judge which motivation is more likely to mislead.

One of the arguments offered, or more accurately insinuated, by many opponents is that Milton has a choice between staying the way we are, with the 10th lowest real estate valuation from commercial, industrial and personal property (CIP) in the state, or transforming itself instantaneously into a less desirable community dominated by ugly, unbridled development. A thoughtful, tasteful development of the DPW Yard is offered up as the bogeyman which will create this result, a bogeyman meant to scare people. In fact we can do what other fine communities have done. We can have a modicum of commercial development to help with our tax burden. We can enjoy the amenities such a development might bring. And we can preserve the wonderful character of this beautiful community.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly, the NIMBY crowd is quite strong here in Milton. There is no question that one can view taxation through any of a number of different lenses. As Philip stated, the truly more significant number is the average family tax bill. This is the burden, and not the tax rate. Do we have higher property values than the other communities listed for comparison, certainly. Do we have a broader, more sustainable tax base, absolutely not! I recognize that people are concerned about "runaway development". But how can we say that a single, relatively small development would substantially negatively impact on the town. An ever-increasing tax burden would be a far more dramatic negative for Milton. Ask anyone who is thinking about the schools, fire or police over the next 10 years.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watching tonight's town meeting sent me to the internet to review this blog which has staunchly supported development at the town DPW yard and attacking those who stood against issuance of an RFP as NIMBYs. While I will grant that Mr. Matthews has given himself some wiggle room as he incrementally distanced himself from the Milton LLC proposal, a rereading of some of his articles clearly indicates that he carried a lot of water for what now looks like an extremely shady deal. From the start the Milton LLC proposal was all about sizzle. Their glossy brochures with which they virtually blanketed the town, touting and "elegant" solution to Milton's financial woes, have now been demonstrated to be a rather inelegant speculative sham.

Some people sensed that all along. They understood that any discussion about an RFP for the DPW yard was really a rubber stamp for Milton LLC. What other developer would have stepped forward when Milton LLC had bought up all the land surrounding the DPW yard? With that kind of leverage and with prominent Milton citizens selling the deal, the DPW yard RFP would have been measured exclusively against the alluring images conjured by the Shoppes at Milton Village propaganda. Nothing less would do. On soccer fields, at PTO meetings, in neighborhood streets, residents were already conjecturing. Trader Joes? Whole Foods Market? Even a Stop and Shop would be alright. Maybe my kids can get a job down there.

The backlash was treacherous. A sitting selectman was ousted. Many new town meeting members were elected. And that despite the whisper campaign against John Shields. And despite the bleatings of people such as Mr. Matthews who could not differentiate NIMBYism (some of it was that) from sincere anxiety about what even a moderately sized development might mean for a town that is a hodge podge of neighborhoods inhabited by people who might not have fully understood the long term issues presented by Milton's lack of commercial development.

Call that ignorance naivite. Or denial. It matters not. Citizens generally grow into their role. They learn about their town as their dependence on it increases. And in the past two major decisions they made, I think they did the right things -- vote in John Shields, vote "yes" for the override. One would think that the succes of one group (Shields voters) would negate the potential of the other. But it didn't happen. The voting public never ceases to amaze with its ability to get it right. And with Shield's election, the DPW yard RFP, and the Milton LLC proposal, has evaporated and been revealed as an over-played gambit by unnamed specualtors. It was never a prudent thing because it was neither a local effort, not was it generated by any "legitimate" anchor store chain.

I wonder what the Milton LLC supporters are thinking as they try to sleep tonight. Will they curtail their overwrought rhetoric in the future? I can't imagine they will.

11:16 PM  

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