Note: Wrentham’s Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for 7:30pm Monday, June 10 at King Philip Regional High School. Registered voters can participate. Get a copy of the Warrant
I strongly urge Wrentham voters to vote yes on Article 9. Wrentham’s Economic Development Committee has put together an Article 9 Q & A that explains many of the issues. It is a reasonable place from which to begin your own analysis.
For me there are two things to consider, one practical and one philosophical. As a practical matter, long-term flat growth and annually increasing expenses have created an ever widening gap between municipal revenue and expenses that cannot be bridged with spending cuts.
The greatest effect of this phenomenon has been on our children’s education. I’ve seen this first hand at both the Elementary school and at the High School. Unless we figure out a way to close the gap this will continue to worsen.
On-going residential development will continue to exert downward pressure on our budgets. There are several large scale residential subdivisions actively under development right now. They will increase our population by 160+ new families. Since most people have at least two children that means our school tax burden will increase in the neighborhood of $900k a year.
Unless we want the deterioration of our children’s education to continue, we need to find additional sources of revenue. Relief won’t come from slashing expenses. The money will come from increased tax revenue, whether residential or commercial.
Detractors kvetch about traffic. They decry the loss of the town’s “rural” character. They say there are already many acres currently zoned for business, therefore, we should draw a line in the sand.
The number of other properties zoned a certain way have nothing to do with a specific parcel or opportunity. Every land owner has the right to dispose of his or her property according to individual circumstances.
As to the rural character argument, I respectfully remind those who make it, every square inch of Wrentham was owned by somebody the day each of us arrived in town. That land was not purchased to give us a good view or a certain lifestyle. And don’t forget someone developed your property so you could live on it. That means a developer cut down trees, displaced wildlife or put houses where there were once farms.
Believe me, I get it. I cried the day I drove down Upper Union Street and saw those beautiful three hundred year old trees lying on the ground in pieces. And now the nuns have displaced a gorgeous field with acres of ugly solar panels. I agree abutters and the community should be involved in fair and transparent discussions about land use. I agree we should have rules that compel property owners to consider their neighbors’ interests when developing the land. But I only own the property on which my house sits.
In the end, approving the zoning change is the right thing to do. The increased tax revenue will shore up eroding budgets. And, we have no right to hold the owners assets hostage in perpetuity because we don’t like anything they propose and we can’t afford to buy them out.
Changing the underlying zoning does not abdicate our rights to shape the finished product. The special permit process enumerates strict requirements for development which take into account the best interests of the abutters and the community by law.
The resulting finished product will reflect the rights and concerns of all the stakeholders. Just show up at the Planning Board meetings, ask a lot of questions, and speak up.