, Newburyport, MA


October 22, 2013

The hidden costs of waterfront plan

To the editor:

We have just received a glossy mailing from the NRA that brings questions to my mind. It seems to me that they, like most developers trying to sell a project, misrepresent the economics. They are probably no worse than others in that regard, but this is about our waterfront and our land, which they hold in trust.

The economic fallacy is that they do not count the many hidden costs that are passed on to us, the residents. These costs are indeed easy to hide because they are in dribs and drabs and sometimes over many years. The fact is that new housing is never an economic win for a community. If it were so, rural tax rates would be much higher than urban tax rates. New York City would be a delight of practically zero local tax.

Here are just some of those hidden costs. More traffic problems with more signs, paving, extra lanes, maintenance, traffic signals, road line painting, accidents, burning gas waiting for traffic, police work, courts to sort out accidents, higher auto insurance, lawyers fees. Increased demand for city services like city clerk’s time, other City Hall services, rubbish removal, tax collection costs. Of course, school costs. Water supply costs, sewer problems, more electric, phone and cable lines and their maintenance.

While new housing is virtually always a losing proposition for a community, businesses may or may not be, depending on the traffic problems they generate, the noise, air, water and ground pollution they create (and sometimes leave behind for us to clean up), whether they get tax breaks or not, whether they create hazards and whether they create future problems, for example, by building on a a flood plain.

Anyway, it’s something to think about.

Tom Horth


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