After seeing the article in the paper about the continuing legal dispute between Mrs. Woodman & Seaport Village vs. the City, I was truly appalled at the comments that were attached on the Newburyport Daily News online site. I was horrified at the ignorance being displayed.
It is all too easy to use your personal ideology and national and state issues and try to relate them broadly to a uniquely local topic.
The devil is in the details and when we make snap decisions or pooh, pooh any effort to resolve these in a clear process; we end up spreading heart ache not just for ourselves but for the future character and feel of Newburyport.
The citizens, City Hall and other local advocacy groups need to clearly understand what is at stake!
First of all, the land in question, at least part of it, is under Chapter 61 – agricultural land in which a greatly reduced property tax is levied to provide a break for our beleaguered farms in the Commonwealth. It stands to reason for the benefit of all and for the benefit of the entire Commonwealth, to try to protect and preserve our local farms. (Only 17.7% of the Commonwealth is farmland!) It is also good for Newburyport for this to happen so the City is provided 120 days to decide if it wishes to purchase this land and allow for the continuation of it for agricultural use. It is also true that the City (and the other taxpayers) has suffered as it was not receiving the full property tax for so many years to protect its interest in this land. In effect, the landowner, after benefiting from this reduced rate, will sell to a developer and walk away without penalty for reneging on a long standing discount.
The additional problem has been that the would-be developer has bundled an area that is not designated agricultural along with the protected parcel and then is requiring the city to purchase the whole thing. Compounding this, the asking price has been inflated to correspond to the ‘loss’ of income from a proposed 150 units on this property when the courts have admitted it couldn’t under regular permitting be allowed. In fact, regular local ordinances and state regulations would barely allow two units in such a wetlands area.
Now the Open Space Committee has been accumulating funds for several years to protect watersheds and crucial open spaces but this in effect would be spending money so a few can make a huge profit off the backs of the taxpayer.
Therefore, it is crucial that the city continue this appeal process.
In Part II, I will explain why this parcel is so important to the average taxpayer to preserve as ‘open’.