Council should reject a ‘taxpayer funded bailout’

Published: 8/29/2022 2:25:06 PM

Modified: 8/29/2022 2:21:26 PM

Council should reject a ‘taxpayer funded bailout’

As a taxpayer and resident of Ward 3, I am writing to express my opinion of the Community Preservation Committee’s decision to approve awarding $500,000 to O’Connell Development Group Inc. to “save” the St. John Cantius church from demolition. I appreciate the hard work the CPC does, but I respectfully and strongly disagree with the decision to grant public CPA funds to a private entity for the purpose of creating market rate housing.

If the developers were planning either affordable housing, which we desperately need, or other reuse of the church that allowed community access, I would absolutely support such work. I am concerned with this decision may set a precedent. Perhaps other developers would buy historic buildings and suggest the possibility of demolition unless similar subsidies come their way.

Meanwhile I feel there are other pressing needs for CPA funds. Bedford used some funds to improve sidewalks to encourage walking as a form of recreation. We certainly have many sidewalks in need of repair. Some pose hazards to walkers, especially if disabled or elderly. The sidewalk outside my house along Montview Avenue has wide cracks filled with weeds, bulges, depressions and missing chunks of asphalt.

Acton purchased three house lots where Habitat for Humanity built affordable homes. At least one community used its funds to build a dog park. How many years have we been fretting about the need for a modern dog park? What about a swimming instruction program for our youth, or outdoor pickleball courts, which other towns have managed to build with CPA money?

Though well intentioned, I believe this decision violates the spirit of the CPA and the trust of voters who originally supported the surtax on the ballot. Neither the Catholic Church, which stopped maintaining the church for years after it closed, or O’Connell Development or anyone else seems to have made an effort to raise the 500,000. Less than a year ago, O’Connell turned down the city’s offer to buy the building for the much-needed, highly prioritized Community Resilience Hub.

A taxpayer-funded bailout for market rate housing is not a good solution to preserving this historic church.