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One Step Forward One Step Back

It is time to support senior tax relief. It is also time to tell the selectmen and state representatives we are not willing to open Sudbury to high density housing that negates this relief.

Tomorrow I will be voting for senior tax relief at our special town election.   I believe this is a step forward to helping solve our structural deficit issues in town. Unfortunately, today I also received a flyer advertising the availability of 40B housing units in Sudbury.  So on one hand a citizen petition before town meeting will hopefully result in senior tax relief to keep seniors in town. But on the other hand, two of our selectmen, the Sudbury Housing Trust and our planning department have fought to keep 40B as a law in the state, resulting in high density housing that could effectively cancel out our senior tax relief efforts.

First,  we should enact senior tax relief.  The proposed law is not perfect. But if those of us with school age children look at this purely selfishly, anything that slows or reverses the growth of students in our schools is a good thing.  The high percentage of Sudbury households that have students in the schools is a blessing, but also one of the causes of our structural deficit.  The property tax income from one house does not cover the education costs for the children in the house.

While keeping seniors in town is one way to offset this structural deficit, it is not the silver bullet. Unfortunately, one does not exist.  We need to keep pushing for health insurance and pension reform, scrutiny over all town hiring, consolidation of our school administrations, preservation of open space,  and a more equitable regional school agreement with Lincoln. Senior tax relief is a step in the right direction. The law as written expires in three years so provides a useful experiment.

Similar to our push for senior tax relief, we need to push to end the 40B affordable housing law that enables developers to build high density housing in Sudbury.  The impact of this law is very visible in the developments now taking shape along route 20.  One bedroom units will probably not generate children in our schools.  Two bedroom units?  Three bedroom units?  You decide.  You can see the attached flyer from our housing office advertising homes and two/three bedroom units.

The unfortunate aspect to all this, is not the affordable housing aspect.  But that for every affordable unit at Landham crossing, there are three market rate units built in a high density development that include two and three bedroom units. Had standard Sudbury zoning been followed, this level of development would not be permitted.

It is time to support senior tax relief. It is also time to tell the selectmen and state representatives that while we are willing to pay higher taxes to keep seniors in town, we are not willing to open Sudbury to high density housing that negates our senior tax relief efforts.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

x December 04, 2012 at 02:00 AM
"From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." The stealthy cold hand of socialism reaches Sudbury. The town will become a magnet for 'disadvantaged' seniors... why save when Sudbury will help finance your lifestyle? Younger folks will find the lower tax rates of neighboring towns more attractive. The laws of economics regarding incentives and disincentives will not be suspended just so a few can have a warm and fuzzy feeling in Sudbury. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Rick Johnson December 04, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Thanks Bryan. But I would call it more like "One Step Up, TWO Steps Back". Our BOS, dominated by O'Brien and Drobinski, along with our Planning Department just don't look at things like this. 40B is going to break our backs.
Dr.Rosen-rosen December 04, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Bryan, you are pretty dense yourself. How exactly does more housing units cancel out senior tax relief? The opposition is true, 40B housing = more taxable property units = more tax revenue for the town. More density = more RE tax to the town. It seems to me that since your economic arguments are red herrings without any factual basis, you are against 40B for the very reason it was enacted, "anti-snob" zoning. You just don't want "those" people in your little white-bread town. Let's call a spade a spade. And single family subdivisions have just as much impact in terms of adding children than 40B projects. http://sudbury.ma.us/departments/CHO/doc4492/Fiscalimpactofmixedincomehousing2007.pdf In fact, it's common sense that the big McMansion projects are much more hospitable to large (3+) children family than smaller condo units.
Dr.Rosen-rosen December 04, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Also Bryan, since 40B is a state law, as you know, you'll have to convince the leaders in the other 350 towns and cities to repeal it. Oh, they already tried that via ballot question in 2010 and it didn't pass....
siobhan hullinger December 04, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Every unit and home will not generate the revenue needed to support even one child in the elementary or high school unless they are valued at a level far above 1 million. The affordable units in the foreseeable future carry a FIXED tax cost unlike the rest of us. Each year the levy increases, the more underwater these units become and the more other taxpayers will have to pay to make the shortfall. I would be happy to give you the actual numbers. I'm in the phone book. There are very few revenue neutral homes in Sudbury - if any. If a family of 6 moves into one of these units at Landham crossing, that's 4 kids at the high school, at roughly $13,000.00 each to educate - YOU do the math. Then multiply that by the number of units just in this ONE development and that will be your cost number. Calculate the projected revenue from each unit and that will be the number we GET in taxes. Which do you think is higher? The marketing is being targeted towards families with multiple children - read the flyer for yourself.
x December 04, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Increasingly the town has become social engineer - deciding who is worthy of 'affordable' housing, managing this separate community as landlord, and struggling to keep up with the spending consequences. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Mike Hullinger December 04, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Here are the numbers, which have nothing to do with red fish or attitudes: 1. At a selling price of $180k - $200k, these units will generate about $3,000 - $3,300 per year in real estate tax revenue, fixed for as long as they have the affordable designation. 2. $3,000 per unit barely covers the cost of Town Management, Town wide services, and debt service, BEFORE anything is left over for the schools. 3. The cost per student at SPS is now around $12,000 per year. The cost per student at LS is nor around $16,000 per year. 4. 50% of the households in Sudbury have household incomes less than $150,000 per year. between 20% and 23% of the current households have household incomes that would qualify them for the 80% of Boston area median income required for one of these new 40B developed units. But they already own a home and will subsidize the tax obligations of these new homeowners. This has nothing to do with red fish or snobs, it is about creating a finanically unsustainable cost structure for the Town's existing residents that will result from these units and the Johnson farm development.
x December 04, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Mike, Goodness, what facts... and we thought there was no limit to other people's money. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
sudburycitizentoo December 04, 2012 at 05:31 PM
plenty of time to vote no and no lines at Town Hall either
Greg George December 04, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Instead of waiting for developers to push their version of 40B on us, I suggest we be more proactive in how we handle the 40B law. If we work together to come up with a plan for reaching the 10% affordable housing limit, we might be happier with the outcome. It seems like we should consider creating a Housing Production Plan as outlined here ... http://www.mass.gov/hed/community/40b-plan/housing-production-plan.html
Mike Hullinger December 05, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Greg, Exactly correct. This is what we have a paid Town Planner, and a Town Manager, and a Board of Selectmen for. To understand the financial burdens and development impact 40B has on the town, and the availability of the housing production plan option to 40B, an option that was adopted by the state way back in February 2008 as a method for a town to be "proactive" rather than reactive to 40B developers. However, despite an option to be proactive under the 40B law, we have been at the mercy of the 40B developers. The Town did finally file a housing production plan, but it was one day AFTER the Johnson farm 40B developer filed his request for a 40B development. Our current Board of Selectmen Chairperson was qouted as saying he thinks "40B is an effective tool for Sudbury." I have yet to figure out how a law putting the town at the whim of a 40B devleoper and the State's DHCD is an effective tool for our town to manage it growth and the very negative financial impacts 40B high density developments have on our School and Town budgets and the exisiting Sudbury Tax Payers. (see my comment above). You are spot on that we should have had a HPP, but a lot sooner.
Dr.Rosen-rosen December 05, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Hullingers, it sounds like what you are saying is that we can only build houses in town that are over $1M because they are the only residential properties which will generate sufficient tax revenue to match the per pupil cost. Obviously, that's asinine. We know that the residential tax base can no longer support the current level of town expenses. What we need to do then is: (a) lower town expenses, (b) raise taxes, or (c) increase the commercial tax base, or a combination of both. Those are the only options. I think most folks would opt for options (a) and (c) before the treaded (c) (which happens every year regardless). What about some mixed use development along the Rt. 20 corridor? A couple affordable units in town ain't going to make a bit of difference.
siobhan hullinger December 05, 2012 at 11:28 AM
A couple won't but 200 or 300 hundred would - pretty much the scenario we will have since they are already approved. Route 20 seems to be the focus but once the Wayland Commons gets up and running fully, the local establishments in Sudbury will definitely feel the pinch. The amount of traffic that will be generated from all those units in the condensed area surrounding the Landham Road intersection will make it more palatable to frequent Wayland than than Sudbury. a - lowering expenses, or using tax dollars more efficiently has to happen regardless b - raising taxes has to slow because we will price ourselves right out of the equation. With LS dropping in the ratings of Boston magazine ( yes, I know this isn't a real benchmark) which realtors and prospective buyers look to for comparisons, we are approaching the danger zone. The new fixed revenue, revenue red high density housing may just tip us to be just like Greece ( ;-) ) Doesn't really matter how you view raising taxes - it is what it is c - the commercial base should be expanded but 117 should be re-visited. Route 20 has and will continue to have increased congestion and it is not walker friendly. Although, we COULD engage in tourism if we really wanted additional revenue. It makes no sense that we are so rich in history and only the historical society knows. There is some fear of theft, but other towns with a history like ours seems to manage.
siobhan hullinger December 05, 2012 at 11:29 AM
The new development at town center could have a tourist kiosk and we could tie into the already established Concord/Minuteman events. We should have that available to everyone not just a few.
Mike Hullinger December 05, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Dr. R R, I am not suggesting that we only build houses over $1 million. I was simply pointing out the "managed" growth by our town officials is resulting in 40B high density development that is only making the residential tax burden of existing residents worse, not better. As far as reducing Town and School costs, the BRTF reccommendations have been ignored by elected Town officials. Why not mixed use on the heavily traveled Route 117 commuter route too, in addition to Route 20? We are on an unsustainable financial path because our Town officials do not fully consider the financial impacts of their decisions on the citizens of this town. This failure to consider financial impacts is why we now need to provide not only tax deferement for Seniors but also a tax exemption. What greater example of how our town leaders are making this town financial unsustainable for its residents?
Dr.Rosen-rosen December 05, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Good ideas, folks. I think far more emphasis should be placed on economic development than opposing 40B projects. The addition of a few nice sized new businesses would match the "offset" of any 40B project. Shopping centers generate 10x more traffic than housing projects. That's a fact. Siobhan, where are you getting 200-300 new affordable units from? That would mean a total of over 1000 new units. There's no way that's going to happen. Economically unfeasible. We should also be vocal about putting a traffic light at Landham/Rt. 20. Why they haven't installed one is ridiculous. Should be a requirement for Landham Rd. project.
siobhan hullinger December 05, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Dr R-R here's the map: All the approvals have been mapped out on google maps http://sudbury.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-latest-40b-plan-still-a-bad-idea#photo-10489169
Pat Brown December 05, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Concerning the Landham Road intersection, that was the top priority recommended by VHB (engineering firm) in a study presented to the Board of Selectmen in June. http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/x345281710/Study-recommends-traffic-signal-at-busy-Sudbury-intersection http://www.town.sudbury.ma.us/departments/BoardOfSelectmen/doc7871/BoardOfSelectmen_2012-06-12_Minutes.pdf However, there is no completed design and no funding for this project. The preliminary project proposal is still listed as "conceptual" (that is, not enough design detail to be evaluated or obtain cost estimates) in the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization online database.
Edward Stark December 05, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I love how 40B's are OK until they are proposed next to Planning Board member Chris Morley's house. Then there were "zoning issues" and now instead we have million dollar homes going up which only add to Mr. Morley's property value. I also love how hard Larry O'Brien fought to stop Concord's giant 40B on the Sudbury line as it effected a number of his "friends" in town but won't even speak in any forumn about the impact that Landham Crossing and Johnson Farm will have on South Sudbury.
Dr.Rosen-rosen December 05, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Siobhan, are you going to admit you were wrong about the additional new 200 affordable units? There's not even going to be an additional new 200 market units, never mind affordable. Speaking about high density in South Sudbury. There's pockets of great buildable land in South Sudbury! Of course, developers are going to build there! Why is that such a surprise? And it will continue to be built out until it is economically unfeasible to do so. Smarten up folks!
siobhan hullinger December 05, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I guess you didn't look at the google map then
siobhan hullinger December 06, 2012 at 12:07 PM
40B is only economical for the developer. And yes - please look at the google map I posted. It shows how many units are going in. I don't know where you are getting your information from but it is completely wrong. Check out the map - it shows what is already approved just in that one location.
Mike Hullinger December 06, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Dr. RR, The point is, 40B creates the ability to override local zoning density restrictions to put in high density developments, whether they are all "affordable" or only 25% "Affordable." The UMass Donahue study relies on the false premise that the mixed use develpoments cited in their study represent the building density already permitted locally, not as a result of 40B. Let's use Landham crossing as an example with 32 units on 8 acres ( which I assume are all buildable acres). Under local zoning, 8 single family homes would be permitted, not 32 (or alternatively CPA funds could have been used to make this property open space). Even if you assume the 8 single family units are modestly priced and have more school age children per household than the high density units, the 32 units still result in a bigger negative financial impact on the town than the 8 units built in compliance with local zoning. 20-23% of the residents of this Town already fall under the 40B income limits. 40B is not about affordable housing for those making under the income limit, it is about busting local zoning to develop high density housing at a rate of 3 market rate units for each "affordable" unit.
LessIsMore December 07, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I fail to see how senior tax relief provides any solution. I understand that the idea is that tax relief will allow seniors to remain in town. This will reduce the cost of the schools as seniors are unlikely to have school age children. However, like the analysis used to support most social engineering actions this analysis does not consider the law of unintended consequences. By selecting a 'favored group' (seniors) and rewarding that group by reaching into the pockets of other town residents you have made the town less attractive to non-senior residents. This creates an incentive for non-seniors to leave the town after their children have finished with the schools due to a high tax burden which has only been made higher due to a need to subsidize seniors. I believe that senior tax relief will make the problem worse not better.
x December 11, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Cogent analysis... have you made arrangements yet for senior housing? Act now to avoid the rush. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III

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