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  1. Purpose of Outreach Sessions • Develop common understanding of facts as a basis for discussion and decisions on growth and land use in Williamstown • Outline Planning Board projects for 2008-2009 • Solicit public input on both of the above

  2. We pay too much property tax • Our local government and school spending are out of line • We get too little state aid • The best option to mitigate our fiscal difficulties is new growth, but protected land and regulations stifle growth

  3. A little reality-check Measurement* Amount Rank Municipal spending/resident (2007) $2,466 150/351 State aid/resident (2007) $432 122/351 Avg. household property tax bill (2008) $4,635 86/3011 1 – In 1988 we ranked 20 places higher * Values do not count Williams students in population figures

  4. On average, the fraction of Williamstown’s household income that was spent on property tax declined by 10% between 1990 and 1999 $1,799 $42,926 $2,826$75,366 Sources Average Household Income 1999: US Census Average Household Income 1990: Estimated from US Census household income distribution data Average Household Property Tax Bills: Massachusetts Department of Revenue (no median tax bill data available)

  5. For how many of us are property taxes a hardship? • One-in-six Williamstown property tax payers spent 30% or more of their household income on housing costs in 1999 Source: 2000 US Census H97

  6. For how many of us are property taxes a hardship? • One-in-six Williamstown property tax payers spent 30% or more of their household income on housing costs in 1999 • But we ranked near the bottom – 329th out of 351 towns in Massachusetts – in this metric Source: 2000 US Census H97

  7. New Growth and the Budget Budget is initially proposed as revenue limited, not expense driven. – Peter Fohlin • Yearly expectation is that total municipal expenditures will go up by about 3.5% - based in part on an annual increase in revenue from taxes on existing property that is close to Proposition 2½ limits, along with an annual property tax revenue boost from “new growth” • To illustrate, in recent years, the revenue from property taxes has been approaching $12M, increasing by around $475K per year. About $275K of that comes from what is allowed by Prop 2½ , and another $200K comes from tax revenue on “new growth” • To get that $200K boost from “new growth” requires around $15-19M of “new growth”, depending on tax rate

  8. New Growth pays for roughly 40% of our annual levy increase

  9. New Growth is the value of property added during a given year Source: Assessor’s new growth data and building permit data

  10. Is new home construction important? • Tax revenue from land subdivision and new home construction, provides a ~$90,000 annual boost (~20% of levy increase) • Around 1/3rd of new home construction in the past ten years occurred on parcels that were subdivided since 1998 • The majority of ‘new growth’ comes from non-expansive improvements

  11. Open Space – Numbers Total Williamstown acreage: 30,005 Protected Open Space: 11,6731 Upland Conservation District: 4,254 exclusive of the above2 15,927 acres, or 53% of land is formally or practically protected from development 1 - From MassGIS Open Space 2/08 data layer. This includes but is not limited to: Mount Greylock Reservation (3,518); Other State-Owned Land (2,730); Hopkins Forest (1,990); Conservation Commission (515); Rural Lands Foundation (454); Trustees of Reservations (430) 2 - The total area of the Upland Conservation District is 11,571 acres, but much of it overlaps with protected open space Chapter 61, 61A and 61B lands not included

  12. Not to be confused with… Between 1997 and 2008, the fraction of the tax base shielded by Chapter 61 increased from 3.0% to 4.9% Source: Assessor’s Chapter Land data

  13. With all that Open Space, is there any land left for people (and development)? • Williamstown ranks 116th out of 351 towns in the amount of non-protected land per-capita*: 2.2 acres * Williams College student population excluded Source: MassGIS OpenSpace datalayer, February 2008 (Hopkins Forest and Clark Art Institute were added to Williamstown measure)

  14. Are regulations stifling growth? • You need to ask: In comparison to what? • Williamstown’s regulations and enforcement don’t seem to be unusual (with the possible exception of the Upland Conservation District) • One investigation* suggests that… • Regulations may inhibit subdivision of land • Found no evidence that they inhibit actual home building * Patrick Dunlavey, Presented to the Williamstown Planning Board, July 2008

  15. We pay too much property tax

  16. We pay too much property tax – debatable

  17. We pay too much property tax – debatable • Our local government and school spending are out of line

  18. We pay too much property tax – debatable • Our local government and school spending are out of line – no

  19. We pay too much property tax – debatable • Our local government and school spending are out of line– no • We get too little state aid

  20. We pay too much property tax – debatable • Our local government and school spending are out of line – no • We get too little state aid – no

  21. We pay too much property tax – debatable • Our local government and school spending are out of line – no • We get too little state aid – no • The best option to mitigate our fiscal difficulties is new growth, but protected land and regulations stifle growth

  22. We pay too much property tax – debatable • Our local government and school spending are out of line – no • We get too little state aid – no • The best option to mitigate our fiscal difficulties is new growth, but protected land and regulations stifle growth – debatable premise, and no

  23. Why do we rank high on average household tax bill? Measurement* Amount RankAvg. household property tax bill (2008) $4,635 86/3011 1 – In 1988 we ranked 20 places higher * Values do not count Williams students in population figures

  24. Tax base: Residential vs. Commercial With 12.1% commercial property, Williamstown ranks 180th out of 313 towns - significantly lower than the median (but not remarkable) Source: Massachusetts Department of Revenue 2008, 313 cities and towns compared

  25. Residential & Commercial Valuation Relative to Total Valuation With 29.4% tax-exempt property, Williamstown ranks 3rd highest out of 313 towns Source: Massachusetts Department of Revenue 2008, 313 cities and towns compared

  26. Summing up • Most of the “usual suspects” are not causes of alleged fiscal difficulties • Fiscal benefits of expansive growth may be overrated • Most of us could easily afford higher property tax, however a significant minority cannot • Tax-exempt property contributes to high tax bills • Small commercial tax base contributes to high tax bills.

  27. Fiscal concerns are not trump • Demographics • We’re attracting an older, less diverse population • Declining school enrollments • Livability and Sustainability • See Williamstown Master Plan, Open Space Plan, etc.

  28. Planning Board Projects for 2008-2009 Review of Village Business District Current Village Business District (VBD) is comprised of two non-contiguous areas - one generally comprised of Spring Street, the other by upper Water Street Current purpose is to accommodate a broad mixture of uses in a compact pedestrian-oriented environment Master plan calls for promoting growth in downtown core Recent permitting for Spring Street project identified several obstacles to growth

  29. Village Business District (cont) Goal of VBD review is to see if acceptable development can be facilitated Under consideration: • Review amount of set-back from residential uses • Adding special permit authority to increase building heights above 35 feet • Review requirement for on-site stormwater recharge if storm sewer is available • Need for more off-street parking for Water and Spring • Possible linkage of VBD between Spring Street and Water Street

  30. The Village Business District

  31. Planning Board Projects for 2008-2009 Low Impact Development Perennial problem of flooding – damage to homes and property, erosion, damage to water resources New developments may increase flooding if not planned properly Low Impact Development (LID) is an approach to stormwater management that relies on low-tech controls at the source Goal is to ensure that flood control after development is better than or equal to pre-development conditions

  32. Low Impact Development (cont) Goal is to control stormwater at the source through small-scale management techniques, rather than just pipe all water to a low point and discharge. Key elements include the practice of reducing impervious cover, and using green space and natural areas to allow control of flow and to promote percolation Use of permeable pavements, rain gardens, grassed swales Part of effort is to reduce the building envelope to what is needed, so that other permeable areas allow for infiltration Less reliance on large structures like detention basins, catch basins and and pipes