Letter: ‘City’ mentality
With regard to the Supreme Judicial Court’s recent decision to allow full tax exemption for New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) land holdings in the tiny town of Hawley, I would like to point out that this decision is woefully misguided. Had the SJC decided in favor of the original, miniscule taxation to NEFF of $172 annually, the Town of Hawley would have been satisfied, NEFF would be in the pink financially and all of their noble charitable goals would have been met. This would have been wonderful, with all of us breathing cleaner air and some hope being restored that perhaps somehow our offspring might live in a better world than presently predicted. People all over the state would consider giving their land to NEFF for these good purposes, and at the same time they would be affording their towns some recompense, rather than just leaving the town with an increasingly smaller tax base. The SJC decision comes from “city” mentality. It’s easy for Boston to think that chunks of land can become tax exempt while rich people pay more and more for their quarter-acre, big-city holdings. But in the small towns where the carbon sequestration happens and fresh air is the only product besides maple syrup, there are precious few rich people, and the 300 or so country folk in some of these small towns cannot provide enough to foot the bill on their own. If all the public land goes tax free, as this decision holds precedence for, these towns will eventually either disappear or become suburban enclaves for the rich. This is beginning to sound familiar to me in a very troublesome way.