To Develop or Not? April 2015

Is Development good for North Branford?

Towns and cities struggle to find ways to increase their revenues without increasing taxes.  Our town is no exception.  One tool our town can use, is to find ways to expand our tax base.  This practice can have its advantages and its consequences.

On the one hand, revitalizing or ‘recycling’ existing developed land can be a huge boost for the town coffers.  A ‘fix what’s broken’ approach, encouraging landlords to update properties left vacant or in disrepair.  Improving our appearance will attract new business and businesses - thus increasing tax revenue.

On the other hand, there is the lure of new development.  There are those who believe development will increase our tax base and solve our money problems.  More residents and more businesses = a balanced budget.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.  If it were so, our town would have been wealthy a long time ago.  We wouldn’t be raising the mill rate every year - trying to meet an ever growing budget.  The reality is, dollar for dollar, developed land usually costs a town more than it takes in.  Your first thought might be “that can’t be right”.  But when you think about it and consider all the services a town needs to support development, spending is the harsh reality.

Believe it or not, the farms, fields and woodlands that seem so tempting and ripe for development are actually profitable for our town.  For every tax dollar a town takes in, undeveloped land can cost as little as 18 cents to maintain.  There are several studies that support this.  They may vary in scope, but they have the same result.   Fields, farms and woods = a town’s most economical asset.

Yes, our town has plenty of room for development.  But development should be appropriate or it will have its costs.  Our town’s future rests in the hands of those planning it and land owners who have a stake in it.  We have to work together, making thoughtful decisions that put our town’s vision and economic health first.  It is possible to prosper and preserve our scenic rural character.

David Sargent