To the Editor,
The Tide Is Rising.
Imagine you are standing in three feet of water; the tide is coming up an inch every few minutes and you can’t swim. You are being told, ‘Don’t worry,’ it’s only rising inches at a time. Eventually you will drown. That is where we are with respect to land conservation in Marion.
Each time a parcel is proposed for conservation, we are told the taxes lost are insignificant. What matters is the total amount of land in conservation and the aggregate taxes lost to the town to date. That is what is slowly “drowning” the town.
Marion residents approved Article 5 at the recent Town Meeting; this takes the 33.7-acre Hoff parcel off the tax rolls, so the tide is up another few inches.
Our 2017 Master Plan notes that 34% of Marion’s 9,105 acres, a total of 3,091 acres, is permanently conserved, thus off the tax rolls. Another 22% is subject to temporary Chapter 60 conservation restrictions, and thus paying a much-reduced level of taxes. Please find me another town in southeastern Massachusetts which has permanently conserved 34% of its land area.
The Master Plan states that residential taxes account for 93% of Marion’s tax base. Residential properties are 37% of the town’s land use, thus, 37% of Marion properties pay 93% of the cost of running the town. Are there other towns in southeastern Massachusetts with 60% of their tax parcels are off the tax rolls?
Land conservation enhances property values to a point. Eventually, the opportunity cost of the taxes lost to a town starts to outweigh the value of the land conservation by making the town increasingly unaffordable.
New development is detrimental only if it runs out of control. In Marion, development done incrementally and targeted at summer residents, seniors and retirees, and commercial and industrial entities, will expand the tax base and bring in more taxpayers to share the cost burden of running the town.
Someone suggested that a “tree” is the most tax-effective use of land because it doesn’t use town services. That is not true. For Marion, it is properties owned by summers residence. Our summer residents often buy expensive homes, use very few town services, and don’t vote.
Walking trails were a big selling point for the Hoff parcel. However, rather than spending more money on conservation land for off-road walking trails, we should be spending money on improving pedestrian safety and making our streets safer for bikers and walkers.
Marion’s year-round population has been between 4,800 and 5,000 forever. The town lacks the scale – meaning the critical size or mass – necessary to cost-effectively provide services such as fire, police, sewer, and water. Incremental development will bring in more taxpayers to share the cost of these services.
I wish those people, who are so passionate about conserving land in Marion, would become equally passionate about keeping our Town affordable for our existing residents.
John P. Waterman, Marion resident and Selectman
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