Update 9/12/00


This story ran on page B05 of the Boston Globe on 9/12/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

SOURCE: By Regina Montague, Globe Correspondent A month after Governor Paul Cellucci stunned preservationists, including his own environmental secretary, by refusing to sign a landmark bill to preserve open space from development, legislators yesterday agreed to a compromise that will save the measure.

The Senate adopted several revisions, a spokesman for Cellucci said the governor would sign the bill on Thursday.


Our economic cheerleaders (i.e. the Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Visitor's Bureau, the Municipal Research Bureau, et. al.) are raising their pom-poms about a new Fenway Park ($300+ Million of public money) while the silence is deafening on these environmental and public realm issues.

This story ran on page B05 of the Boston Globe on 8/5/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

Citing excess fees, Cellucci rejects bill to preserve land

By Daniel Barbarisi, Globe Correspondent, 8/5/2000

Disregarding intense lobbying from environmentalists, legislators, activists, and one of his Cabinet secretaries, Governor Paul Cellucci has refused to sign the Community Preservation Act, saying it would impose ''unreasonable fees'' on taxpayers.

The governor returned the bill to the Legislature yesterday, effectively killing its chances for passage this year. The measure would have allowed communities to levy additional property taxes, then use the money to purchase and preserve open space.

It also would have added a surcharge of up to $20 on all real estate deed transactions, which would be deposited in a state fund to assist cities and towns with the land purchases.

Cellucci offered an amendment reducing the fees to $5 and $10.

''I will not stand by and let the Legislature nickel and dime the taxpayers,'' Cellucci said. ''The technical amendment represents a fair deal for taxpayers and homeowners, and strikes the right balance between community preservation and keeping ownership affordable.

''Fix it and I will sign it,'' he said.

The surprise amendment comes after the end of the formal session Monday, meaning no votes can be taken up until next January without unanimous consent of legislators.

Although the Senate passed the bill unanimously, there were 27 votes against it in the House, thus making unanimous consent unlikely in the lower chamber.

Senate Natural Resources Committee chairman Marc Pacheco, one of the bill's principal sponsors, said it has no chance of resurrection this year.

''Unfortunately, I doubt very much that there would be unanimous consent,'' said Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat. ''The governor is well aware of this. Someone will get up there and speak against this, which I'm sure he's hoping they will do.''

In response to Cellucci's assertion that this is a minor ''technical amendment,'' Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham calculated the effect the changes would have on the land purchase program. He said Cellucci's amendment would reduce the proposed $30 million state matching fund to less than $10 million, which Birmingham calls unacceptable.

''The proposed amendment appears to gut the purpose and potential of the Community Preservation Act,'' Birmingham said. While both legislators and lobbyists say the bill is probably dead for this session, they insist that passage next year is a foregone conclusion. Legislators begin formal sessions again in January.

''I'm quite confident it will go through once the Legislature reconvenes for formal sessions,'' said Jim Gomes, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. ''It's not a question of whether we're going to get a Community Preservation Act compromise, it's a question of when.''

The bill was the result of a compromise proposal forged between the House and Senate although environmental groups have been pushing for some form of community preservation bill for 15 years. The bill would have allowed communities to add a tax of up to 3 percent to their property tax levy, and use the money to buy land to protect it from development, preserve historic sites, and create affordable housing.

When the compromise was announced, many, including Secretary of Environmental Affairs Robert Durand, predicted Cellucci would sign it.

Durand, who made community preservation his number one priority this year, has taken much of the early heat for the bill's failure.

''There's a real question here as to whether the environmental secretary has any influence over substantive affairs at the Governor's Office,'' said Seth Kaplan, Conservation Law Foundation staff attorney.

''The reason why people pushed for [Durand] to get the job was because he knew state government. And then his governor kills it off at the last minute. If he can't accomplish this, then what can he accomplish?'' Kaplan asked.

The secretary responded to the news with a brief statement.

''I have been working on this legislation for 15 years, and I will continue to work as hard as I can to see it ultimately pass,'' Durand said.

This story ran on page B05 of the Boston Globe on 8/5/2000.

© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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