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Public Lands for the Public Good
Public land should serve the public, not be liquidated.
Legislation that rolls back democratic safeguards for the disposition of state-owned public lands has been reintroduced in the Massachusetts Legislature. The most drastic bill (House 60) would sweep aside current Chapter 7 safeguards that ensure legislative accountability and local participation in land reuse planning. House 60 would promote the consumption of scarce public land by intensive for-profit development. It would squander the opportunity to use invaluable public properties to help meet urgent community needs for open space, affordable housing and community-based economic development.

The terms of the bill will make it very difficult for a local housing authority or conservation commission to influence the fate of state land within their community. Municipal planners and citizens concerned about affordable housing or environmental impacts will be sidelined. Both the House and Senate versions let the key decisions be made behind closed doors on Beacon Hill, with gubernatorial appointees calling the shots. The Senate version only applies to properties less than 25 acres, which at least preserves current safeguards for larger, more complex dispositions.

Last year opposition by community groups, and the passage of the more moderate Senate bill resulted in the House bill dying in conference committee. The reintroduction of the legislation means that Massachusetts cities and towns will once again have to fight to defend their planning rights against the threat of state-fostered overdevelopment. Read on to learn how to protect your right to plan the use of public land in your community.
  • REQUIRE LOCAL REUSE COMMITTEES in order to preserve local participation, and a balanced state-local decision-making process.
  • PRIORITIZE OPEN SPACE PROTECTION & AFFORDABLE HOUSING by allowing low or no-cost transfers of surplus property to municipalities, (or their non-profit designees) for public purpose. (The public should not have to pay top dollar for land that ALREADY belongs to the public.).
  • PRESERVE LEGISLATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY by requiring a local legislative sponsor and a specific plan, based on the recommendation of the reuse committee BEFORE a sale is approved.
  • PROTECT SMART GROWTH PRINCIPLES. Ensure the protection of open space. Ensure joint local and regional participation in smart growth planning. Respect existing local plans to increase affordable housing and protect open space.

Resources for Action:
Surplus Lands and Community Rights (pdf)

Text of S39 – Senate Surplus Land Bill

Text of H60 – House Surplus Land Bill

Text of H55 – Surplus Land Bill (Sanchez)

Text of Chapter 7 -Current Surplus Land Law

Flow chart for the H60 process

Review of House 60 Surplus Land Bill

Notes on 2006 Senate Surplus Land Bill

Presentation at MCHC Surplus Land Workshop, 2006

What is Community-based Smart Growth? [Flyer]

Our Land, Our Communities: Reusing Surplus State Lands For Community-Based Smart Growth

NOTE ON BILL NUMBERS Bill numbers can change when bills are refiled, merged, or rewritten. The major surplus land bills for the current House legislation are H60 (Stanley) and S39 (Fargo/Resor). Other bills that would change the surplus land process are S30 and S55. The former S1267 is now a different bill unrelated to surplus land. Similar bills filed in earlier years had numbers H3781, H4278, H4491, and S2463.
Here’s what you can do:

Write a letter to your legislators. Click here for a sample letter; click here to find your legislators.

Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed

Submit a Warrant Article to your Town Meeting

What properties does the Commonwealth own?

The Commonwealth holds over 611,000 acres of land in Massachusetts. These holdings include parks, highways, prisons, armories, office buildings, and college campuses. Click here for a list of State properties by municipalities: http://www.mass.gov/cam/dlforms/RE/2006_RPR.pdf
(This file is about 9 MB and may take quite a while to download depending on your connecton speed)

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