July 12, 2005
Westport and Hanover Selectmen ask Legislature for Due Process
by John Andrews, MCHC
Selectmen in two additional towns have passed resolutions asking the Legislature to give them a chance to be heard before laws protecting surplus lands are changed.
On June 28, the Board of Selectmen in the Town of Hanover adopted a resolution that asked state legislators to allow the Hanover Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, the Housing Department, and the Conservation Commission “ample time to comment on and provide public input to, any proposed changes to Chapter 7 laws dealing with ;the disposition of our state public lands.”
In explaining why they deserve to be heard, the Selectmen noted that the state lands being sold “ have not been taxed and have benefited from local police, fire, and other local emergency services for many years.” They further noted that “The local municipalities in which these parcels reside are in fact the most deeply affected by any surplus decisions.”
A similarly-worded resolution was passed by the Westport Board of Selectmen on July 11.
Unfortunately, leaders in the Massachusetts House of Representatives were not responsive to the pleas of the towns. On July 22, only two weeks after the town resolutions were passed, the text of a radically changed surplus lands bill (H4278) was released just 24 hours before a scheduled vote. The bill was approved by committee in a matter of hours without a public hearing. Immediate protests by citizens statewide who were alerted by the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, and questions raised by surprised legislators, resulted in the vote being postponed.
Citizen’s groups continue to demand that the Legislature hold public hearings on the bill in different parts of the state, so that volunteer office holders in affected communities can help shape the provisions of the bill. (See co-signed letter posted elsewhere on this site.)
Text of the Town of Hanover Resolution:
Concerning Reworking Chapter 7 Laws
Dealing with Surplus State Public Land
WHEREAS…Our State Legislature is considering reworking Chapter 7 Laws dealing with the disposition of surplus state public lands, and
WHEREAS…Outside Section 548 (which currently governs this disposition process) will expire in June 2005, and
WHEREAS…Hanover, like other communities in the Commonwealth, has many valuable parcels of state public land, and
WHEREAS…Public parcels have not been taxed and have benefited from local police, fire, and other local emergency services for many years, and
WHEREAS…The local municipalities in which these parcels reside are in fact the most deeply affected by any surplus decisions.
BE IT RESOLVED..That the Board of Selectmen respectfully requests its state legislators to allow the Hanover Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, the Housing Department, the Conservation Commission, and other relevant boards and commissions ample time to comment on, and provide public input to, any proposed changes to Chapter 7 laws dealing with the disposition of our state public lands.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED…That the Board of Selectmen further requests that its state legislators oppose any effort to regulate state-owned public lands through outside sections of the state budget, and support efforts to amend Chapter 7 through the regular legislative process.
Very truly yours,
BOARD OF SELECTMEN
Viola A. Ryerson, Chairman
R. Alan Rugman
David G. Flynn
June 28, 2005