To the Editor:
Reading over your editorial in the Sept. 17 MV Times, you certainly make your bias against the Land Bank very clear. Sorry you feel that way, but you are welcome to your opinions. However, when you conflate conservation land, protected in perpetuity, with the lack of affordable housing, it is time to go back to the drawing board.
To take your editorial one step at a time. Taxes. When a parcel of land is taken off the tax rolls and put into conservation, we know that land will be a very small burden to the town in the future. It won’t be sending children to our schools or overburdening the police or fire department services, as happens when new homes are created. Yes, the cost of running the town will be spread over a slightly smaller base, but to be fair, it is the people who live in the town that cause and benefit from the town’s expenditures, not the undeveloped land.
Your attempted linkage of the rise in median home prices with the amount of land in conservation just does not hold water. Some of the most expensive land on the planet is in cities with very little land in conservation. What conservation land does do is improve the quality of life for all of us, rich and poor alike. If the roughly one-third of the Island which remains possibly developable gets built out as house lots, we will all be the poorer. As a community, we need to be slowing the rush toward buildout and working harder to protect the important parts of what is left.
So leave the conservation groups in peace, they are doing a great job. Let us focus on the housing issue, which affects us all. A dedicated property transfer tax would help, but alone it is not the answer to the affordable housing crisis. Each seasonal home built here creates work for the equivalent of at least one year-round worker, making the problem ever worse, but does nothing to solve the shortage of housing for workers. A dedicated tax on seasonal houses would help, but in the end we are all part of the problem and we are all going to have to be part of the solution.