Economics: why saving the Pine Barrens makes financial sense for our towns

Too often we are asked to go along with a development project because someone is claiming that it will bring needed tax revenue to our town. Too often, these claims don’t withstand scrutiny.

The same claims are made year after year, decade after decade and still our towns struggle financially. Clearly, more development is not the answer – it hasn’t solved the problem yet. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result makes no sense. More sand mining to collect earth removal fees, more solar projects for “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” agreements, more shopping malls with promises of amenities. The recent example of the unsubstantiated claims made by developers trying to rezone 1/4 of the Town of Wareham for intense commercial development shows how speculative these claims can be. The EconoLogistics Report (April 2021) is found here: https://www.norezoningwareham.com/

Studies show that open space saves money. https://www.tpl.org/economic-health-benefits

With support from local residents, town boards and committees may be more willing to actually enforce their rules and regulations that give them the power to seek fees and penalties when rules are violated. We all know towns use speeding and parking tickets to generate revenue-why not enforce environmental laws to bring in revenue?

Wareham: earth removal fees

For too long, Town officials have looked the other way when earth removal operations should have had a permit. When permits are issued, the Town can at least collect a fee in connection with this destructive, extractive industry.

The most egregious example is the Town’s failure to require AD Makepeace to verify its claims that the millions of cubic yards of earth it has extracted from at least 5 sites across the Town were exempt from the earth removal law and fee. Makepeace never applied for the permits and the Board of Selectmen who are responsible for enforcing the law, looked the other way. In March, 2021, the Board confirmed in writing that it never issued Makepeace earth removal permits. Neither Makepeace nor the Board have explained why. We are demanding an answer: where did these millions of cubic yards of earth go? Were they really used for “agricultural purposes” on Makepeace’s cranberry bogs, as the CEO claims?

Or were they hauled off as part of a commercial mining operation as witnesses have observed? Read more on our Mining page.

Carver: earth removal fees

The Town of Carver has granted too much latitude to the earth removal industry. Examples include: AD Makepeace – over 8 million cubic yards of earth permitted, and some not permitted. Were all the fees paid?

Franklin Marsh, LLC. How much was collected from this earth removal operation from 2018 to the present? Do the numbers add up?

Exploiting Chapter 61A: agricultural tax classifications

Southeastern Massachusetts is known for its iconic cranberry bogs. While often viewed as quaint, these operations are increasingly industrial scale agricultural operations exempt from many environmental laws, including parts of the Clean Water Act. In addition, landowners sometimes exploit the “Chapter 61A” classification under Massachusetts real estate tax law. Land classified as “agricultural” or “forestry” gets assessed at a very low tax rate. Sometimes, this land is not actually used for agriculture but for strip mining and other times the land is not really in active agriculture or forestry. Our towns should ensure that any Chapter 61A land is properly classified.