856 No - 407 Yes

Royal Crest currently has 588 units on 76 acres.  The latest proposal calls for:

Residential - 1,264 units broken out as follows:
  • 385 rental units of multi-family housing that will be part of a Chapter 40B proposal - 97 of these units will have affordability restrictions
  • 439 rental units of market rate multi-family housing
  • 35 "55+ active living" rental units
  • 199 for sale townhome units  - $750,000
  • 206 units of student housing (equaling 824 beds)

Commercial Uses:
  • A 108,500 square foot office building
  • 69,873 square feet of ground floor retail space, spread out among some of the multi-family housing buildings, student housing,
  • 102 room Hotel
How big is this?  

Tuscan Village in Salem, NH is and was a commercially zoned area with virtually no residential neighbors and sits on 170 acres and has 2,800,000 square feet of building space on the property or .378 square feet of building space per square feet of land space.  

Royal Crest which abuts to residential neighborhoods. It was not zoned for commercial use, sits on 76 acres and proposes 2,118,747 square feet of building space or .639 square feet of building space per square feet of land space.  With the parking garages, which is fair to use because that's how we measure it in town and if it wasn't so dense, they wouldn't need as much parking, it comes to .809 or 2.15 denser than Tuscan Village.   So a similar amount of building space on HALF the acreage.  

Royal Crest will be approximately twice as dense as Tuscan Village and four times denser than Lynnfield Marketplace!  

Tuscan Village has 700,000 square feet of retail space and 1,000,000 square feet of office space and 900 units. 

Lynnfield Market Place is 79 acres. The mixed-use project consists of 395,000 square feet of retail space, 80,000 square feet of office space and 180 residential units for a total of 680,000 square feet.  

Royal Crest will have about 90% less  retail/office space and more units.   Royal Crest will be vastly residential in comparison to Tuscan Village and Marketplace and will not even be close to their commercial tax revenues.  

How much is 70,000 square feet of retail space?  It's about one Market Basket supermarket.  The proposal is not for a destination shopping experience.

Traffic -

Traffic is expected to be 3.5 times and 14,000 vehicle trips per day.  More on the traffic impacts in the next section.  

Building heights -

They want buildings as tall as 75 feet, almost double what the existing zoning allows! This will be the new normal for the next developer request but you will be limited to 35 feet on your single family home.  Sounds fair right?
On April 5, 2022 after approximately 40 meetings with the developers and 2 years, the North Andover Planning Board recommended unfavorable action on the zoning articles for Royal Crest.  
The town consultant, the Barrett Planning Group, admits in their report that the numbers being used by many to justify minimal impact on student enrollment in town are problematic:

"(a) The net number of new students and is misleading. As presented, it represents the difference between the existing students at Royal Crest and the estimated number in the Royal Crest Redevelopment, not the impact of the new construction. There must be a realistic assessment of where the existing students will actually go and what continuing presence they will have in the North Andover schools.

The report goes on to indicate that one of the three most likely possibilities is that Royal Crest families, not wanting to deal with ten years of relocation and construction, relocate to other homes in North Andover. A completely new population of students then moves into the new units at Royal Crest, greatly enlarging the estimated impact to enrollments.  THIS IS A LIKELY scenario that the schools will be impacted.

If Town Meeting approves the facility master plan being proposed tonight, the schools will get ALL of the money they need for any existing projects.

If town officials feel there is a need to accelerate these plans, the new revenues from Princeton Properties development and the under-construction projects at Amazon, Avalon Phase 1, Avalon Phase 2, and Sutton Street (KofC) CAN AND SHOULD be used.
Royal Crest plans to put $2 million in escrow each for traffic and pedestrian mitigation to have the “Town implement” post construction mitigation. $2 million is a ridiculously small amount should traffic improvements need to be constructed AFTER THE FACT and BY THE TOWN. This token sum of money will likely only be enough to cover studies and design per the Town Manager.

Royal Crest will not be paying to fix the traffic problems after the fact, WE WILL. These costs are NOT factored into the town's financial estimates.

Town consultant (Barrett Group) casts major doubts on the developers methodology in its impact studies:
Our concern is that the developer’s methodology does not account for potential synergies between the proposed uses in a multi-use development – one that significantly exceeds the scale of the single-use complex currently located on the site. For example, using public safety call data from existing senior housing in a residential area to estimate new over-55 housing calls in a large mixed-use development can miss the different needs of older adults co-existing with up to 1,000 college students and retail stores on the same 76-acre site."
-Barrett Planning Group - the Town's Consultant (emphasis added)

Town services will NEED to expand to accommodate such a large influx of new residents. New people will need to be hired to process bills and paperwork associated with new residents, hire more firemen, police and teachers, and add capacity to our schools.

The town consultant specifically says that the developers impact studies DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THIS: “The Developer’s analysis does not acknowledge the capacity of any Town department to absorb more demands for service.  If North Andover is like other communities, and we imagine it is, some Town departments have reserve capacity to accommodate growth and others are what we call “tipping point” operations. These conditions need to be established in the revised report submitted by the Developer.”

The town’s planning consultant casts doubts on the numbers put forth by the developer throughout the report. We should NOT be relying on the developer’s word to approve this project!

Link to the backup documents:

Why Can’t We Have a Pedestrian Bridge? image
Merrimack says a footbridge over Route 114 won’t work. Yet, they’ve asked MassDOT to build one. MassDOT refused because the bridge would be for the exclusive use of two private entities (Merrimack and Royal Crest).

They have also asked the Select Board for a letter of support for a federal grant to build a new footbridge.

Their representations that a footbridge won’t work are simply because they don’t want to pay for it. If it is such a bad idea, they wouldn’t be asking the state and federal governments for tax dollars to build it.

A footbridge should be an essential part to any Merrimack presence on the opposite side of 114 and there is no money for this in the agreement, the town would be left footing the bill.

Merrimack College and the Pedestrian Bridge

The bottom line is that MassDOT cannot participate in the construction of a project element that does not benefit the public. In this case, the bridge connecting Royal Crest to Merrimack College is an issue to be resolved between those privately owned properties.

Learn More  
If we vote NO, Merrimack College will simply build the proposed dorm on their own campus. The Planning Board was already shown the plans.

  • Merrimack College is UNABLE to purchase Royal Crest in its entirety. It is far beyond their means. The property is valued well above the entirety of Merrimack College’s endowment.
  • The proposed redevelopment would break up the property and make it far easier for the College to add piecemeal to their campus over time. This would take those properties off the tax rolls and lead to less revenue.
  • Even if they could buy Royal Crest outright, Merrimack cold not use the Dover Amendment to redevelop the property. The Dover Amendment only applies to buildings used for academic related purposes only.  This threat is a scare tactic.
  • Dover Amendment still allows the Town to require a site plan review from Merrimack and the imposition of reasonable regulations concerning: Bulk, Height of Structures, Yard Sizes, Lot Area, Setbacks, Open Space, Parking, and building Coverage.

Dover Amendment does NOT give them free reign to redevelop Royal Crest.
Environmental Impacts - it's not all positive image
Proposal will increase weekday traffic three-fold and weekend traffic will increase six times what it is now.

The increased vehicle trips and the increased time sitting in traffic will mean significantly more vehicle emissions and have a negative impact on the local environment.

Impervious areas (i.e., pavement) will increase by 7 Acres, while open space is decreasing by 8 acres. You typically want to see an increase in open space and a reduction of impervious area when you are giving waivers for height and density.

The developer program summary indicates sewer discharge will go from 141,240 gallons per day to 286,328 gallons per day, 53 million gallons a year, a 100% increase.

Increase in water consumption of 53 million Gallons per year which is a FOUR percent increase in the entire Town’s 2021 usage of 1,255 million gallons a year. The town’s water study report projected only 26 MGY for all the new uses but the developer’s own wastewater figures project a 100% increase.
You might have heard that we will lose the opportunity to be eligible for certain grant money if we vote no tonight. This is simply not true.  

Communities, in order to be eligible for certain grant money, must comply with the Housing Choice Legislation.

“That an MBTA community shall have at least one zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and meets other criteria set forth in the statute: Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre, not more than ½ miles from a commuter rail station, subway station, ferry terminal or bus station, if applicable. No age restriction. Suitable for families with children.” (Section 3A of M.G.L. c. 40A)

  • The Royal Crest zoning DOES NOT comply with the State Housing Choice Legislation, as the property has Thirty-five over 55 age restricted units.
  • The Town clearly said they were unsure if this zoning would even meet the requirement because as it is outside the ½ mile proximity.
  • Town has already met it’s 2022 by holding the required meetings.

The requirement: “Hold a briefing of your City Council, Town Council or Select Board on the Draft Compliance Guidance no later than May 2, 2022 and attest to that on the MBTA Community Information Form.” by May 2nd at 5PM.

This project is not needed for 2022 Housing Choice Grant compliance and will not qualify for our needs in 2023.
There are 2 development agreements that have been negotiated with the town.  The first from Merrimack and the second from Trinity Financial (one of the developers).
  • The Merrimack agreement would provide for a 1-time payment to the town of $1,650,000 to be drawn on by the town over 10 years.  The college would also require a yearly written report from the town on what we’ve spent the money on.
  • $650,000 is meant to offset approximately 8 years of property tax revenue to the town resulting from the loss of tax revenue from Merrimack’s recent purchase of 510-530 Turnpike Street which they failed to mention during the planning process. 
  • After this, we get NOTHING, no property tax revenue from the college, no PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes), NOTHING.  This loss of tax revenue will then be passed on to town residents to make up the difference.  This is not the windfall it’s being touted as!
  • Merrimack has also offered to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NAPD.  This is something they should already be doing but have refused to do up to this point.  Public safety should not be a bargaining chip used to get this project approved. 
  • The Trinity Financial agreement is also not the windfall it’s being passed off as.  Trinity has pledged only $1,000,000 each to a “Traffic Monitoring Mitigation Fund” & a “Pedestrian Safety Fund” to offset the unknown traffic and safety implications to the town.  $2,000,000 total is a ridiculously small amount, especially if traffic improvements are needed AFTER THE FACT. The town will be completely on the hook in that case.  This token sum of money will likely only be enough to cover studies and design per the Town Manager.  A pedestrian bridge and traffic mitigation could cost well over this 10 Million dollars. 
  • All other funding offered to the town are one-time payments only.  The improvements in the Facilities Master Plan II to the Franklin School ARE NOT CONTINGENT ON MONEY FROM THIS AGREEMENT. 
As stated earlier, if Town Meeting approves the Facility Master Plan being proposed tonight, the schools will get the money they need for any existing projects.  If town officials feel there is a need to accelerate these plans, surely the new revenues from Amazon, Princeton Properties development and the under-construction projects at Avalon Phase 1, Avalon Phase 2, and Sutton Street (KofC) CAN AND SHOULD BE USED.
One of the most common pieces of misinformation being spread about this project is the idea that, “If we don’t pass this, they will just build anyway using 40B!” This is completely and utterly false.

Chapter 40B comprehensive permits only apply to residential development. If the developer tried to move forward with 40B, they would not be able to include any of the planned commercial, retail, or office spaces or the proposed hotel.

Chapter 40B imposes limits on the size of projects based upon the size of the host community. The maximum size of a 40B project in North Andover is 300 units.

North Andover currently only needs 200 units to reach our 10% SHI “subsidized housing inventory” requirement.

The ECONOMICS just wouldn't work!  

Size limits mean that any 40B that would be built on the Royal Crest site would be SIGNIFICANTLY LESS DENSE than the current Royal Crest apartments.

No project of the size and scope of the current proposal can be forced upon North Andover without the consent and approval of Town Meeting!

The current rent rolls at Royal Crest are estimated to be worth about $18,000,000 per year based on their listed rental prices.  The property is now owned by AIR Communities, a publicly traded company, they must meet the state’s sanitary codes, and have a legal fiduciary responsibility to their stock holders.  

The owners are not going to allow the property to decay into nothing; the ownership will work with us or a different developer will come through with a better plan.  The current proposal has a build out value approaching a half billion dollars.  

There is always another plan.  There is money to be made and nothing economically feasible can be done without a zoning change.  They will NOT be able to build some other type of multi-unit housing by right. 

Royal Crest is zoned Residential 5. What could be built by right if we deny this zoning?  No commercial, no retail and the maximum building height stays at 35 feet with a maximum lot coverage of 20%.  That means 80% open space!  

The buildings could be no taller than the existing site and the maximum lot coverage still couldn’t exceed 20%.  They could build essentially what they have there now at an incredible cost!  They would need to update storm water; build to new structural codes; and meet updated ADA accommodations.  

No one is going to trade 600 existing units for around 600 units newly constructed units; this is a for profit company.  It’s just not economically feasible and it’s foolish to portray it would happen.  

The developer will come back to us with a better plan and Merrimack will build their dorms on their campus.  There will be a development agreement with whoever wants to build anything because the zoning will need to be changed to make new construction economically feasible.

Constructive Eviction of a Minority Population image
Project proponents don’t like us using the term Constructive Eviction of a Minority Population and constructive eviction of all Royal Crest residents.  Maybe they don’t like it because they’ve only been focused on a bit of revenue instead of the impacts to our friends and neighbors. What is Constructive Eviction?

Constructive Eviction occurs when a landlord does not physically or legally evict a tenant, but takes actions that interfere with the tenant's use and enjoyment of the premises significantly. Constructive eviction can occur as a result of the landlord's breach of the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment if (1) the landlord substantially interferes with the tenant's use and enjoyment of the premises by his actions or failure to act to resolve a problem; (2) the tenant gives the landlord notice of the problem and the landlord fails to respond and resolve the problem; and (3) the tenant vacates the premises in a reasonable amount of time after the landlord fails to resolve the problem.

The developer says the residents can stay.  They’ll move them from building to building as they redevelop.  Does living on-site in a construction zone with daily noise, construction trucks and dust interfere with the covenant of quiet enjoyment?  Will the work interfere with a tenant’s use and enjoyment of their apartment? If smoke and noise from a bar can rise to this level (see below), then 10 years of major construction isn’t going to have a problem meeting that criteria. So, we will call it as we see it, We see this proposal as constructive eviction of a minority population or to avoid this, they'll just raise the rents and push them out which goes against what they've verbally promised.  Call it what you want but do the ends justify the means?  We say no and will be voting no, too.  

In another Massachusetts Supreme Court case, the court held that the noise from a neighborhood bar allowed residents of a nearby building to claim constructive eviction—only because the same landlord owned and rented both properties. Hence, the ability to address the noise issue was within the landlord’s power.  Donnelly v. Cohasset Housing Authority

In another case, an appeals court held that cigarette smoke from a neighboring apartment could rise to the level where constructive eviction was appropriate. Blackett v. Olanoff
Minority population / environmental justice area image
What is an Environmental Justice Population?  In Massachusetts, a neighborhood is defined as an Environmental Justice population if one or more of the following four criteria are true:

1. the annual median household income is not more than 65 per cent of the statewide annual median household income;
2. minorities comprise 40 per cent or more of the population;
3. twenty five per cent or more of households lack English language proficiency; or
4. minorities comprise 25 per cent or more of the population and the annual median household income of the municipality in which the neighborhood is located does not exceed 150 per cent of the statewide annual median household income.

Check out the map. The minority areas in Towns versus cities are few and far between.

Royal Crest has a large minority population and there are 350-400 households that will be impacted if the rezoning passes. These are our neighbors. Your children went to school with them or they sold us girl scout cookies. They played sports in town, attended dances, the parents were coaches. They've supported our small businesses. They've contributed to the Town and are part of our community.

The zoning will have a direct impact on this environmental justice population and these will be their options.

  • They'll be allowed to move from building to building as the site is redeveloped and live with ten years of construction noise and dirt. 
  • They'll be moved out by exorbitant rent increases so the developer can say they didn't want to stay.
  • After it's completed and they've bounced around for years and put up with the construction - they might be lucky enough to be able to afford one of the new rentals which will likely cost 30% more.
The money being offered to the Town is not free.  It is rezoning that will be a precedent setting elimination of a minority population area and constructive eviction of our neighbors.  We can come up with a better plan. 
Traffic imageTraffic image
The new Royal Crest will have 14,000 vehicle trips PER DAY in addition to over 7,000 vehicle trips from the unfinished and unrealized traffic impacts from the new developments; Princeton Property on Route 125, Avalon at West Mill, Minco at Sutton Street and Avalon at East Mill and then we have the traffic from the new Amazon facility.  The redevelopment will increase have increased vehicle trips, FACT.  What are the cumulative impacts when all of these are finished?   Everyone wants to estimate but estimates are just that, what is the reality? 

Most of the Traffic Improvements to the area are dependent on MassDOT's work along the Route 114 Corridor which only addresses from Waverly Road to Mill Road and is NOT designed to benefit Royal Crest. MassDOT has NOT considered the additional traffic volumes in their design. Royal Crest in not making or financially helping MassDOT with the roadway or make these traffic improvements. The MassDOT redesign was supposed to IMPROVE traffic conditions in this area.

In the January 18, 2021 memo from VHB (Royal Crest designer) responded to the Town peer reviewer (VAI) in comment T5, VHB (Royal Crest designer) agreed that the new traffic will have a pronounced impact on traffic operations at multiple signals in the project site.  The Royal Crest designer (VHB) agreed that the traffic at signals near Royal Crest will be over capacity and that the roadway needs more improvement than MassDOT is providing.
"A review of these diagrams indicates that vehicle queues at the following intersections will exceed the available storage capacity of auxiliary turn lanes or where vehicle queues in an adjacent lane block access to a turn lane:
− Route 114/Waverly Road: Waverly Road north and southbound approaches
− Route 114/Peters Street/Haverhill Street: Peters Street and Haverhill Street
− Route 114/Route 125/Elm Street: Route 125 southbound approach
− Route 114/Walsh Way/Project Site Driveway: Route 114 westbound approach"

As part of the response VHB (Royal Crest) summarized that
1)  The addition of a right turn lane at Walsh Way (the new 4 way intersection into the site) would significantly improve the traffic. This is currently NOT included as part of the MassDOT project.
2) The intersection of 114 / Andover Street (aka Bertucci's) the approaches to the intersection should be widened but can’t because of ownership of land and how tight the area is.
3) A right turn lane should be added at the 114/125 intersection near 510 Turnpike Street – this is currently not included either.

TRAFFIC will be worse! MassDOT has not incorporated any of these identified needs in the current plans nor has the developer.

Royal Crest plans to put $1 million in escrow each for traffic and pedestrian mitigation to have the “Town implement” post construction mitigation. $1 million is a ridiculously small amount if additional right turn lanes need to be constructed AFTER THE FACT and BY THE TOWN. The town a token sum of money will likely only be enough to cover studies and design per the Town Manager.
Royal Crest will not be paying to fix the traffic problems after the fact, we will and have those costs been factored into the town's financial estimates? NO, they have not. In order to add right turn lanes at Walsh Way in the future, land would need to give up to the State and would be a lengthy process.

As long as the 4 way intersection at Walsh Way with crosswalks exists, the pedestrian bridge would not be used as it will be easier and shorter to use the signalized crosswalks. Again, the 1 million dollars is an embarrassing low amount to put in escrow and wouldn't come close to covering the studies, design and actual construction of improvements. Taxpayers will either foot the costs or live with the constant traffic.  
As we get ready for the Town Meeting, it’s good to have a refresher on how exactly our Town government operates. Our Select Board is the executive branch of town government. The executive branch carries out and enforces laws that the Legislative branch passes.

Town Meeting is the legislative branch of town government. Voters in Open Town Meetings have a great deal of power. They decide budgets, authorize spending of town money, create or amend zoning bylaws, create or amend by-laws, and offer elected officials a sense of the town's opinions, even on non-binding matters.

Town Meeting decides three major things:
  • It sets the salaries for the elected officials.
  • It votes to appropriate money to run the town; this is our entire Town budget.
  • It votes on the town’s local statutes, which are called by-laws.
In our State the governor “proposes” a budget, and the State legislature parses through it and makes the decision. In North Andover, we are the legislature. When items are proposed by citizens or recommended by the town, we have the opportunity to agree or disagree or even change it if we think it’s a bad idea. We do not have to follow any recommendations of the executive branch. In fact, town meeting exists to be a check on the power of our town’s executive branch. It’s easy to be in the habit of staying the course. It’s also easy to provide new direction by voting!

The ONLY way to change the by-laws for the town, including zoning, is through Town Meeting. Additionally, zoning by-laws are complicated, and the true ramifications are lost when a bunch of legal jargon is presented to Town Meeting. Regardless of recommendations, the legislative branch (YOU, if you attend Town Meeting) has authority to change the direction at any time; citizens can even call special town meetings.

We have the authority to reject the rezoning proposed by Merrimack / Royal Crest that would allow Royal Crest to be redeveloped in most circumstances under plan approval AND allows the Planning Board alone to decide if any revisions are substantial and materially different from the approved Master Development Plan.

We have no guarantees and no rights if appeal of the Planning Board deems a change non substantial.  Bringing changes back to Town Meeting would be burdensome on the Planning Board and the developer would cry hardship and delays that would cost them and the Town money.  A ten year build out will undoubtedly have changes just like Tuscan Village.  It's inevitable that there will be significant changes and we shouldn't give up our legislative rights to the Planning Board.  The only way to ensure we have a full say over the process is to vote NO on Article 28 and let's go back to the drawing board.

What's this Master Plan stuff? image
As enumerated in the 2018 Master Plan, the major concerns of North Andover residents are:
1. Limited School Capacity
2. Traffic Congestion Increasing with More Housing Density
3. Potential to Lose Natural Resources & Open Spaces as Town Develops
4. Deep Concern Over Traffic & Safety Along Neighborhood Streets

The "goals" of the Master Plan fail to outline that there was no consensus over the direction of housing! Many people wanted different types of housing but it was clear there was considerable debate over housing.  To use the Master Plan to justify over development is disingenuous.  

This is exactly why the Legislative Branch of our Town Government [Town Meeting] is the check and balance to the Executive Branch. This is why we have Town Meeting.

Follow the public discussion at: North Andover Community Facebook Page

Join the private opposition only group:  Private Facebook Group

Please read this article from Time Magazine.  We are not a college town nor do we want to become one.

Higher Education Has a Tax Problem and It's Hurting Local Communities

On March 30, 2020, toward the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, New Haven citizens stormed the city’s Zoom budget meeting to vent their outrage at Yale University’s continued strain on city finances. Residents specifically pointed to Yale’s vast and tax-exempt property holdings compared to the deficit-ridden New Haven public schools hungry for property-tax dollars.

Four months later, on July 29, a new coalition of Yale union workers and residents followed up with a 600-vehicle “Respect Caravan” that brought downtown traffic to a halt. With signs that read “Yale: Pay Your Fair Share,” organizers acknowledged that the university offers the city voluntary PILOTS (payments in lieu of taxes) but declared these funds were “pocket change” compared to the $30 billion endowment. For the protestors, COVID-19 merely exacerbated a growing disparity between urban colleges and universities and their host cities.

Universities and their medical centers are registered with the Internal Revenue Service as 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organizations. Because higher education institutions provide the public good of education to surrounding communities, their property holdings are exempt from taxation in all 50 states. But classes with professors and students are a minor side business on college campuses today. The greater value of campuses is their ability to use the nonprofit tax exemption as a tax shelter for profitable research and private investors.

With the meteoric ascendance of the knowledge economy, colleges and universities have become financial titans in urban centers. After a group of universities lobbied to pass the Bayh Dole Act in 1980, schools like Stanford, MIT and Yale immediately created technology transfer offices to privatize and profit from federally sponsored research. Today universities use their academic research to create commercial goods or patents in a range of fields, from the pharmaceutical industries and software products to military defense weaponry. After the fall of factories, knowledge has become the new face of capitalism with university bell towers lauded as the smokestacks of today’s cities.

Both city leaders and administrators in education rightfully laud the “economic impact” that comes from these public-private partnerships facilitated by college campuses. The research makes life-saving discoveries, generates secondary start-up companies and jobs and attracts additional investors in related industries. We can point to the millions in revenue secured by Stanford when university researchers produced Google or the financial rebound generated for Pittsburgh when Silicon Valley companies and local universities helped revive it as a tech city.

Today’s schools bring the once suburban research parks to the city as “innovation districts” where academic research and corporate partnerships meet real estate, retail and cheap labor. Real estate developers like Wexford: Science + Technology focus on what they call “knowledge communities” and work with cities and schools to build a monied portfolio of university-affiliated projects like Philadelphia’s uCity Square, Converge Miami and Cortex in St. Louis. Urban neighborhoods are being transformed to optimize “value capture”: the conversion of city blocks into research profits. Under the cover of educational purposes, research that has the potential to produce millions in patents and revenues remains largely tax exempt while conducted in tax-exempt buildings. These financial arrangements are quite lucrative for city leaders, university administrators and their corporate partners.

But what about city residents, especially those who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the schools? A critical paradox has emerged with dire consequences for our cities. We assume that higher education is an inherent public good, most clearly marked by its exemption from property taxes. But nonprofit status is precisely what allows for an easier transfer of public dollars into higher education’s private developments. The former mayor of New Haven, Conn., Toni Harp, said such arrangements create a property-tax gray area where profitable research produced for private companies is conducted in educational buildings that are not on the tax rolls. (In 2010, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy outlined the increased number of schools starting to pay PILOTs.) At approximately $13 million, Yale pays the largest PILOT in the country. But this is merely a fraction of the estimated $102 million in property taxes that, if Yale weren’t tax exempt, would come from the school or the additional $31 million that would come from Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Most schools also reap the benefits of police and fire protection, snow and trash removal, the maintenance of roads and the electrical grid, and other municipal services while struggling host cities pay the price. Homeowners and small-business owners ultimately carry the weight of increased property taxes caused by campuses and their knowledge communities while the owners of rental properties make units smaller and inflate their prices to prioritize the needs and financial means of those affiliated with the university.

Link to the Times Article


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