Scituate selectmen declined to put the request for a $15,000 study that would look at increasing the town’s tax base on this year’s Planning Board budget without first having more information on the venture.
At their meeting Tuesday, selectmen said they liked the idea of increasing the town’s taxable base, either by creating new “villages” with commercial zoning or changing zoning in current business districts to facilitate new growth. But they said they needed to know more before assigning limited funds to the project.
“Putting it in the budget just isn’t the way it happens in the budget process,” Selectmen Chairman Anthony Vegnani said. “It’s not a good idea or bad idea, it just can't be thrown into the budget.”
The concept of the study came up from the newly created Economic Development Committee. After seeing a similar study done in Georgetown, the group decided that increasing the town’s tax base would be their primary goal for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1.
Although under the Economic Development Committee’s purview, the Planning Board has taken the idea for the study under its wing until the Development Committee has its own budget line.
Because of the way the budget is laid out – six months in advance – members said the best way to get a running start toward the problem would be to invest money in analysis.
“We can’t move forward without some consulting expertise to fill in the blanks of things we don’t know,” said Planning Board Vice Chairman Daniel Monger. “It doesn’t mean we’d go through with any particular proposal.”
The analysis would take a look at all the town’s centers to see if expansion was viable. The study would also take into account opening up previously residentially zoned districts, such as the area along 3A, to see if commercial growth would be possible.
“There are going to be a lot of questions people are going to have that we just can’t answer at this point,” Monger said. “It’s everything from expanding the harbor district or expanding Greenbush or North Scituate or doing something that makes them more viable, or simply development on 3A. It’s long-term revenue potential for the town.”
The study would allow the town to put together a map of the proposed district, create accompanying zoning language, and eventually go to Town Meeting to implement the change.
Yet bringing the idea to selectmen through the budget hearing proved to be problematic.
With limited funds for all departments, Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi only recommended $5,000 for the study at this time.
Selectmen asked for a one-page summary of the plan before allocating additional funding for it.
“Frankly you’re going to need some expert analysis to evaluate what's going to be best.... otherwise its like throwing a dart blindfolded,” Selectman John Danehey said. “I don’t think it’s a lot of money considering…long term it will be a benefit to the town based on the tax base.”
“It’s trite to say you have to spend money to make money, but in this case it’s relevant,” Selectmen Rick Murray agreed.
Selectmen asked for Planning Board members to come back to them with more information, at which point they may look to allocating more funds.
All departmental budgets will be approved by selectmen at the end of the budget process once they have been individually reviewed.