Saturday, October 30, 2021

Article #14- A Vote for Additional Shopping in Town

This article regarding Article #14 was submitted by Jim Moran, Longmeadow resident. 


916 Williams Street
Warrant Article #14 at the Special Town Meeting on Tuesday, November 2 will likely decide the future of the Church property at the corner of Redfern Drive and Williams Street as voters will decide on a possible change to its zoning from Residential to Commercial as requested by the current owners- The Colvest Group. (Article #14)

Question- Do town residents want to see additional shopping in town or do they want to see their taxes reduced through commercial development of the property or both?

Voters at the Special Town Meeting on Tuesday need to know the impact of this development on their quarterly tax bill.

Because Colvest and others in town including some Select Board members are promoting this development as a means to reduce property taxes for homeowners or to mitigate the effects of the Proposition 2.5 tax ceiling, I decided to determine the actual impact of additional property taxes from a new shopping center at this location on our budget process. 

Normally I would ask long time town employee Paul Pasterczyk with budget related questions but he retired this past June and is no longer available.  My next best resource is Mark Gold- a long time member of the Select Board and one of the most knowledgeable members of our town government regarding Longmeadow's budget process.

Here are some of Mark Gold's comments in this matter....

Below are recent estimates made by the Longmeadow Assessors office with assistance from KRT appraisals for property values and tax revenue for the proposed 916 Williams Street development based upon a similar recently developed adjacent parcel for the Longmeadow Shops.

The Town of Longmeadow raises approximately $56 million every year through property taxes.  For ease of computation, let's say they go up by 2% per year (last year was 1.78%, but the Prop 2-1/2 limit is 2.5% so 2% is a good compromise).  2% of $56 million is $1,120,000 per year.  That's what the town needs to increase our tax revenue by each year JUST TO KEEP A LEVEL SERVICE BUDGET This annual increase covers town/ school salary increases, increases in the cost of fuel, etc..

When improved, Colvest's property will bring in about $175K in annual tax revenues.  The rest (water, storm water, sewer, etc.) is a wash because of enterprise funds.  Meals taxes (if there's a restaurant) would be extra.  But the property already brings in $25K in taxes, so it is only a net increase of $150K.  That's 13%  of the annual increase we need, and that increase only comes in ONE YEAR. So the impact of this property on our Prop 2.5 tax ceiling issue is negligible.  We need a 30 house subdivision coming into the town every 3rd or 4th year if we want the growth to impact tax rates.

Looking at the impact of the development on the average homeowner's tax bill.  
For 2021...
  1. Total Town property evaluation was $2,283,546,608
  2. Amount to be raised by taxes:  $56,494,943
  3. Tax rate;  (2 divided by 1):   $24.74
So, according to above table, a Colvest building (there's also land value, but that's already in line 1 above) will be valued between $4.6 and $5.5 million.  Let's call it $5 million.  All other things being equal, that would result in the following calculation:
  1. Total Town evaluation was $2,288,546,608  (increase of $5 million)
  2. Amount to be raised by taxes:  $56,494,943  (this doesn't change in this scenario) 
  3. Tax rate;  (B divided by A):   $24.69

That's a reduction of $0.05 in the tax rate. 
For the "average" home assessed at $354,000, that's a savings of $15 in ONE YEAR ONLY.
   After that, the taxes go up again, although one could argue that they save that $15 every year in perpetuity.

Regarding Tuesday's town meeting vote on Article 14 .....
Vote YES if you simply desire to see additional shopping options in town. Remember a YES vote will have a very minor effect on your tax bill.

Vote NO if you want this property to remain zoned as Residential.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Zone Change Premature, Vote No

This "letter to the editor" was published in the Reminder on 10/28/2021 and reprinted here with permission of the author, Bruce Colton who submitted this letter as an individual.


As a long-time member of the Longmeadow Planning Board, I am proudest of my sponsorship of the town’s site and design review by-law. Site and design review is the town’s strongest tool for regulating growth.

The bylaw is most empowering when combined with a developer’s need to obtain a zone change to accomplish its goals.

Though it is not widely realized by our residents, the former Christian Science Church, at 916 Williams St., was sold several years ago to a developer who seeks to use the site for commercial development. Insofar as the property is presently zoned “residential,” this will require that the property be rezoned to “business” use.

The proposed zone change is arguably the most significant item on the warrant for the Nov. 2 Special Town Meeting.

In the normal course of events, a developer would have come before the Planning Board with detailed plans showing the proposed structures, site layout, traffic flow and curb cuts in order to request an endorsement of the proposed zone change.

However, in this instance, breaking with the practice of virtually every proposed development over the past 30 years, the Planning Board was shown only tentative and generalized proposals for the site’s development. The proposed development seemed designed to squeeze every last developable inch out of the property. Finally, the proposal seemed to ignore the steep decline in the need for retail space over the past decade.

For all these reasons, and the board’s need to be sensitive to the surrounding residential neighborhood and very heavy traffic on Williams Street and Bliss Road, the Planning Board voted 3-1 against rezoning the property as a business zone.

Given the rising cost of government services, it is important that Longmeadow obtain as much property tax revenue as possible. However, the source of this revenue must be strictly regulated.

The site and design review process works best for the town when a proposed development requires a zone change. This gives the Town Meeting voters the ability to see detailed development plans before casting their votes on a zone change. Granting a zone change at this stage of the process will seriously compromise the Planning Board’s ability to shape this development in the town’s interests.

The developer should consider withdrawing its request for a zone change at the Nov. 2 Special Town Meeting.

If not, the voters should vote down this premature zone change.

I am writing this letter as an individual.

Bruce Colton