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Taunton City Council Unanimously Votes for Myles Standish Industrial Park Expansion

November 15, 2011 : The Taunton Gazette, by Charles Winokoor

Taunton – “Finally, at long last,” a relieved Mayor Charles Crowley said of the City Council’s historic vote Tuesday night, to incorporate the final phases of the Myles Standish Industrial Park.

More than 50 years after it was established as a place to treat and house mentally disabled residents, the property once known as Paul A. Dever State School is on its way to becoming a part of the city’s premier industrial park.

The council’s unanimous approval of two measures not only will enable the purchase, for $1, of 170 acres of state-owned Dever land, it also sets in motion a mechanism by which to help pay cleaning up the contaminated and crumbling site.

To satisfy legislation originally spearheaded a decade ago by state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, and then state Rep. James Fagan, D-Taunton, the council agreed to provide just over 25 acres for future public “recreational use,” such as soccer and baseball fields.

For that to happen, the council gave the nod to hand over a parcel known as 77-E – located in the existing Phase III portion of the 800-plus-acre park in the city’s north-end area.

The last phases of the park will be known as IV and V.

Because of objections by neighbors, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department Commission and some city councilors, part of the agreement included an assurance that a substitute parcel be “swapped” for the undesirable 77-E – which has acted as a natural sound buffer between the park and abutting neighborhood.

Both the council and the executive board of the Taunton Development Corporation – the latter of which will assume ownership of the land in cooperation with MassDevelopment – agreed to meet halfway on the 77-E issue.

“It was the best compromise,” said TDC president Louis Ricciadri.

To help pay for what is projected to eventually cost $25 million for demolition, remediation and infrastructure improvements, the council also agreed to adopt MassDevelopment's recommendation for District Improvement Financing, or DIF.

The DIF, which has been used in other states but is still relatively new in Massachusetts, allots a percentage of real estate taxes to pay down future project costs related to municipal projects.

In the case of the Dever property, it will help defray a gap of more than $7 million. The MassDevelopment plan calls for a 20-year term with a “capture rate” of 35 percent of new property tax revenue.

The bulk of the money, more than $17 million, is expected to come from land sales.

Facilitating the vote was an opinion delivered by acting city solicitor Peter Berry, stating that the council did not need the approval of Parks and Rec commission to approve the substitute parcel.

“It certainly isn’t ideal, but in the end we provided the means of expanding into phase four and five,” said, Public Property Committee chairman A.J. Marshall.

The mayor was far more effusive.

“Thank you very, very much,” he said as the MassDevelopment representatives took their leave.

© Copyright 2011 The Taunton Gazette.