[Editor’s Note: In early April, the Boston Globe ran an editorial calling for the Legislature to pass a “compromise” between Floor Amendments 960 and 1266. Both bills allow land use surplusing to continue under state control without community direction and without certain previous safeguards against corruption. Jill Stein responded with the following letter to let Globe readers know that there are more than two alternatives. The Globe did not print her letter. For five months, the citizen’s movement that started the effort to repeal the fast-track auction laws has been a driving force behind the issue. But the Globe has yet to print a single sentence acknowledging that citizen’s have a role or that there is any alternative to the two state-oriented proposals.]
COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVE SHOULD SHAPE LEGISLATION
The recent editorial “A Plan for State Land” advocates compromise between fast-track auctions and the “balanced” Metropolitan Area Planning Council plan. Unfortunately, both proposals continue to disempower local communities. Key decisions remain in the hands of state and regional 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” proposal fails to give communities any seat at the table for properties smaller than 25 acres.
There is no need to rush to replace the current auction law. When it sunsets, land disposition will revert to Chapter 7 rules requiring transfer legislation. While needing improvement, this system provides needed transparency and accountability that deter backroom deals long plaguing Commonwealth land dispositions.
Chapter 7 can provide a holding pattern while effective legislation is debated and developed. “Our Land, Our Communities” – a report released by the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities – provides a community perspective for that debate. It allows communities to guide the reuse of surplus lands while ensuring that statewide guidelines for affordable housing and open space are met. This would be a win-win for the just, sustainable development that our communities and the Commonwealth deserve.
– Jill Stein, President
Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities