EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

March 5, 2014

Letter: Windham can save historic farm without tax increase

To the editor:

Article 5 on this year’s Windham ballot asks voters to approve the purchase of Campbell Farm for the price of $860,000.

Unfortunately, this is where many voters will stop reading, think of the tax implications and vote no. Your Conservation Commission is urging you to vote yes on this article.

The commission’s plan is to not incur a tax increase for the taxpayer. Yes, the price for this 64-acre parcel of land is $860K, but this does not tell the whole story. When one reads the article further, the amount asked for and affecting our tax rate is actually $700,000. How can this be, and why would one consider even the $700K?

The $160,000 difference will be coming from the town’s Conservation Land Fund, which holds monies realized when an owner of qualified open space (10 acres or greater and accepting a tax break to maintain it as such) decides to develop that land. The owner is then assessed a Land Use Change Tax for doing so, with this money going into the Conservation Land Fund.

As a bit of history, from 2004-2013, the average collected in the Conservation Land Fund was $422,240. Outstanding warrants to the fund for 2013 billed but not yet paid total $181,500. These are monies waiting to be received from housing lots already sold. When one looks at an additional 51 house lots already approved and not sold, the Land Fund will realize between $755,000 and $1,020,000 (assuming an average of between $15,000 and $20,000 per lot).

In addition to the figures above, your Conservation Commission has been awarded $144,000 in water protection grants from the state. Given all of the above figures, the commission would again like to emphasize our plan is to not incur a tax increase for the taxpayer.

Rather we will use the above monies to pay the 10 yearly payments of $84,000 or, in all likelihood, pay off this debt well ahead of the 10-year schedule. We are extremely confident we can do this.

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