SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 12, 2013

Town rejects buying land

481 residents vote against Pirie proposal, 391 in favor of it

(Continued)

Chebacco Road resident Bill Dery, who also serves on the School Committee, spoke against the proposal, saying town officials who support the plan are wearing “blinders and rose-colored glasses.” He questioned the revenue presented by selectmen and was concerned about the potential risk to the town.

“We are not equipped to go into business. We are not in business,” he said. “Let the builders take the risk, not us.”

William Wheaton, of Bridge Street, said the plan was a “fiscal drain” and will likely cost the town more than any new tax revenue it will bring in.

“When you increase the town’s population by 3 percent, what you do generally is increase the budget by 3 percent,” said Wheaton, who is an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “If Hamilton increases by 3 percent, the cost eventually to the school system, to the police and fire under this proposal will be half a million a year, and you’ll exceed the tax revenue ... the tax rate will actually go up, not down.”

For others, like Peter Whitman of Bridge Street, the town’s plan for mixed housing would “diminish the character of the town.”

“This is the wrong plan for our town,” he said.

Former Selectmen David Carey spoke in favor of the proposal, saying it would help lower the town’s tax rates.

“This is about as close to a holy grail as you can get,” Carey said. “It will preserve an enormous amount of beautiful open space, make it open for recreation and bring a wide range of housing and, lastly, improve the revenue to the town.”

Selectman Jennifer Scuteri, who supported bringing the plan to Town Meeting, said it is time for the town to make some changes and work together to solve major issues. She mentioned other communities that have taken advantage of purchasing similar plots of land.

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