Our Land, Our Communities
The recent Boston Globe editorial, “A Plan for State Land,” advocates compromise between two plans for surplus lands – the Governor’s fast-track auctions and the “balanced” proposal by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Unfortunately, both of these plans would continue to disempower affected communities. Decision-making authority would remain in the hands of agencies that lack local knowledge essential for “smart” growth, and that are vulnerable to influence by the powerful Beacon Hill developer lobby. Even the “balanced” MAPC proposal fails to give communities any seat at the table for properties smaller than 25 acres.
The rushed sale of public land is unjustified on either fiscal or policy grounds. The rush to extend the fast-tracking process is also unjustified. When the current auction law sunsets, land disposition will revert to Chapter 7 rules requiring transfer legislation. While this system should be improved upon, it provides much needed transparency and accountability that deter backroom deals which have long plagued Commonwealth land dispositions.
Chapter 7 can provide a holding pattern while truly effective legislation can be debated and developed. “Our Land, Our Communities” – a report released by the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities – provides a community perspective that should be a part of that debate. It would allow local communities to guide the reuse of surplus lands while ensuring that statewide guidelines for affordable housing and open space protection are met. Such a solution would be a win-win for the just, sustainable development that local communities and the Commonwealth as a whole deserve.
President, Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities