The Long-Term Planning and Policies Subcommittee of Brookline voted almost unanimously to recommend its overarching Advisory Committee defer a land bank proposal until next year. The subcommittee designed to plan for the town’s future, recommended more research on a proposed land bank after a meeting on Wednesday night.
Subcommittee member David Lescohier submitted the proposal and was the only one to vote against the recommendation to delay.
The land bank proposal, also known as Article 24, would levy a land transfer tax of up to 1 percent on certain property buyers, according to this year’s Annual Town Meeting Warrant. The tax would create a fund for Brookline to buy land to develop for revenue, build affordable housing and preserve parkland.
“The land bank offers the power, a useful tool to be strategic, to focus on longer goals and save up for them,” Lescohier said in his opening remarks about the proposal.
Despite the delay, Lescohier felt he achieved his goal of getting the issue on the town’s radar, he said in an interview after the meeting.
“I wasn’t expecting that they were going to run with this monster, un-shredded and spindled,” he said.
Members of the subcommittee, as well as members of other town boards and advocacy groups who attended the meeting saw Article 24 as trying to benefit two opposing interests: new development versus preservation of current land.
“The premise from the beginning is development pressure cutting into existing green space,” said Arlene Mattison, president of the nonprofit, Brookline GreenSpace Alliance. “How do you have the same bill, the same law, doing both?”
Mattison recommended creating a conservation-focused land bank like the ones on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Sean Lynn-Jones, chair of the Advisory Committee and the subcommittee, said the proposal was creating conflicts even before the vote.
“This is the recipe for a huge battle over how these funds are spent,” he said.
Governments or nonprofits start land banks to put vacant properties to productive use, according to the Center for Community Progress, a national nonprofit that works to eliminate abandoned and deteriorated properties.
If there are no delays, Article 24 is set to go to the full Advisory Committee for a vote on May 1, regardless of what the subcommittee recommended, said Lynn-Jones in a warning before the meeting.
If the Advisory Committee disagrees with the subcommittee and approves the article, it will go to this May’s Annual Town Meeting for another vote, Lynn-Jones said. If the town meeting also votes yes, Brookline’s Select Board will put together a home rule petition to ask the state legislature to create the Brookline Land Bank.
“Even if it’s voted favorably by the town meeting, it has to go to Beacon Hill,” Lynn-Jones said.
If the Advisory Committee follows the subcommittee’s recommendation for further study, a study committee will be appointed to carry it out and could bring the proposal back in time for the Annual Town Meeting in May 2019.