Council votes to develop comprehensive, continuous series of discussions with city officials on city’s future
By Steve Freker
Nearly every Malden City Councillor has made the same point. The city’s tax base is too lopsided with the vast majority of the city’s tax revenue generated from residential taxpayers as opposed to commercial and industrial taxpayers.
According to Councillor-at-Large Craig Spadafora, eventually it will be time to “Pay the Piper” with higher property tax rates for the residential taxpayers under the Proposition 2 1/2 provisions with no relief in sight, as the city’s financial obligations grow. That is why it is time for the city to work on and develop a new master plan for development, something that has not been undertaken since 2010.
“It is time; our residential tax base is 89% of our property tax revenue, with the rest commercial/industrial,” Spadafora said at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. “We have to do everything in our power to keep the commercial/industrial we have and, hopefully, increase it.”
“If we don’t keep our commercial base, we will drive up residential [rates],” he added. “We have to grow our industrial and commercial base now.”
“We need a master plan and invite any city official who can contribute to such a plan to collaborate with us,” Spadafora said. “This has to be a main priority of this Council, the next City Council and the one after that. This is something we will have to deal with for some time.”
Spadafora and Councillor-at-Large Carey McDonald have continually emphasized the issue of the residential versus commercial/industrial tax base throughout the year, most notably when a series of McDonald-authored resolutions regarding present and future financial issues were passed in September.
An order offered by Spadafora and cosponsors – Councillors Peg Crowe (Ward 1), Carey McDonald (at large) and Jadeane Sica (Ward 8) stated: “That the Rules and Ordinance Committee work with the Mayor’s Office, City Planner Michelle Romero, and the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development to develop and publish a Request for Proposals to engage an outside consultant to assist with modernizing our zoning to better accomplish the City’s goals of smart growth and developing a new master plan for development. Be it further ordered that this combined effort focuses on responsible zoning which encourages growth that diversifies our tax base and is informed by input from city leaders on the impact to our city from residential, industrial, and commercial development.” The order passed unanimously and was referred to the Ordinance and Finance Committees.
Ward 2 Councillor Paul Condon pointed out that Everett, next door to Malden, is 70% commercial/industrial tax base and 30% residential “and the MBTA is telling us with smart growth that we have to build more residential because we have two Orange Line stations in our city. It is aggravating to me.”
“Let’s fish or cut bait. The timing of this [master plan] will be a major issue. We have to determine what if it’s going to promote the best value to generate new [tax] revenue,” Councillor McDonald said.
“This is truly the most pressing issue the Council is going to face moving forward,” City Council President Barbara Murphy (Ward 5) said.
“If we are looking forward to creating more commercial tax base, we did pass a zoning overhaul to allow more commercial development,” Ward 4 Councillor Ryan O’Malley said. “We have to have minimum design limitations – whether its MBTA community zoning or this. Don’t rush it – what we don’t want is something we would be disappointed with.”