Friday, July 27, 2007
A Tree (or two) Grows in Amherst
Since half of Amherst is tax exempt (owned by Amherst College, Umass and our Conservation Department) the other half has to pick up an awful lot of slack. And then, within that taxable half shouldering twice the burden, homeowners contribute 90% while commercial property only accounts for 10%.
So now when property goes off the tax rolls it’s like throwing a drowning person a 25-pound Olympic weight plate rather than a life preserver.
Recently Umass purchased and demolished Frat Row, five funky big old houses at the gateway to Umass that previously generated over $50,000 in taxes. And Amherst College outbid developers for the Dakin Estate next to college owned Amherst Golf Course. Although the property was valued at less than a million the purchase price was four times that so if, say, Barry Roberts, had won the bid he would have paid Amherst $60,000 the last two years and much more when his development was completed.
And speaking of Roberts, the town now wants to purchase 7 of his 13 lots in North Amherst (the more mountainous ones) for anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000 to quiet the NIMBY types mostly those living in Leverett. Thus, instead of adding $2 million to the tax levy Amherst gets less than zip.
Any time anybody wants to develop or expand their property the neighbors are quick to cite turtle habitat, swamp fauna, or increased traffic that will endanger the kids. I fear greatly that Amherst College is going to discover that sad fact when they go before Town Meeting to get the zoning change (requiring a two-thirds vote) for the $5 million expansion of the Lord Jeff Inn, which would more than double tax revenues to Amherst (yes, the Lord Jeff and the Golf Course are on the tax rolls).
While the trees in question are common—maple and fir—they are pretty BIG. And in this town, as long as they are large enough to hug…