7/31/2006

Land use watchdog alert — support Romney veto on eminent domain: The Bridge (Somerville MA), 7/29/06

By John Andrews and Jill Stein

Stop the new Massachusetts eminent domain law and its threat to local democratic government! Please call your state Senator and urge him or her to sustain the Governor's veto of Chapter 40T.

Over the past year, citizens' calls have helped stall a series of harmful bills advanced through secretive, backroom Beacon Hill channels. Now, yet another alarming measure has suddenly surfaced that strikes at the heart of local democracy. It is Chapter 40T (which is contained in Section 41 of H5057).

The secrecy surrounding Chapter 40T has prevented a full analysis or understanding of its complicated provisions. But several respected community leaders have expressed their concerns to us that it represents an unprecedented power grab by the real estate development lobby.

Chapter 40T amounts to the privatization of local government. It allows real estate developers to, in effect, secede from a local municipality and to set up their own government with the goal of making profits from the land within Special Development Districts. They can even include unwilling property owners within the district, depriving them of many protections and rights.

Such a basic attack upon democratic principles demands public clarification and debate before it is implemented, not after.

Chapter 40T was vetoed by Governor Mitt Romney based on a lack of due process, but that veto was narrowly overridden in the House yesterday.

Please call your state Senator and urge him or her to stop Chapter 40T (Section 41 of H5057) by supporting Governor Romney’s veto. To find your Senator's contact information, see
http://www.wheredoivotema.com/bal/myelectioninfo.php.



Concerns raised about Chapter 40T:
  • Chapter 40T allows real estate developers a way to form “Special Development Districts” which are essentially private municipalities within a larger city or town. Powers normally reserved for local government would be put in the hands of a Prudential Committee composed of real estate developers.
  • The Prudential Committee could establish their own bylaws and initiate eminent domain proceedings against property owners within the district.
  • The Prudential Committee could exact taxes and assessments against property owners within the district.
  • The Prudential Committee could be controlled with as few as two votes. A quorum of only three members can conduct business, and all decisions are by majority vote.
  • Taxpayers in the surrounding municipality would still be responsible for paying for services demanded by property owners within the district. But there would be a separate system of taxation within the district that could not be tapped for municipal use, such as supporting schools.
    Members of the House quoted in today's State House News underscore these concerns:
  • It's never been given a number, heard, and sent through our process. It was a section written outside of the state legislature by special interests and placed in the economic stimulus bill.
  • There are too few checks for the town government over the power of these developers.



The Bridge: http://bridgenews.org

For more on Chapter 40T: www.masschc.org.

John Andrews is President of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities

Jill Stein is candidate for Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts