Winchester Citizens for a Better Waterfield announced on May 26 that the City of Winchester Clerk has certified a petition calling on the Board of Directors, under section 2-14 of the Winchester Charter of Self-Government, to be submitted article 6 to a city-wide vote. A special election will be scheduled for June 22, 26 or 29.
The petition was prompted by the overwhelming concern of citizens that the land use plan approved by the board of directors, the city manager and the city assembly would cause irreparable financial damage to the city. Under the city charter, petitioners must deliver the signatures of 3% of the city’s voters within five days of the conclusion of the city assembly. The referendum petition was signed by 1,118 residents of Winchester, 630 more than the 485 required.
Some of the concerns raised by residents during the municipal assembly include:
- Granting of a 99-year rent-free lease to the real estate developer valued by the Select Board at $ 3.4 million for a net payment of $ 500,000 upon completion of construction.
- A conditional payment of 10% of net operating income over the 99-year lease – initially estimated by the developer to be less than $ 10,000.
- An immediate additional operating expense of $ 610,000 to the school department to cover 40 additional students in Winchester schools.
- A net annual negative change in the city’s financial position of – $ 972,412 per year (amount skyrocketing each year for the next 99 years).
Paul Manganaro, president of Winchester Citizens for a Better Waterfield, who started the petition, expressed his gratitude to the many Winchester residents who support this petition. “We are very grateful and encouraged by the wave of concern from the residents of Winchester,” he said. “In just a few days, more than 1,100 residents joined us in calling for a referendum on this deal – a bad deal for Winchester.
“Winchester cannot afford to strike a deal that sentences the city to 99 years of net financial loss of at least $ 1 million a year, with no possibility of recovering the expense. … It is one of the few assets that the city has the potential to generate income that could be used to offset debt resulting from past overruns or to postpone the next overrun.
“The waivers for Lynch and Muraco schools are on the horizon and the 2019 waiver has already been spent. … Voters have spoken and they demand a better solution.”
John B. Miller, who is the treasurer of Winchester Citizens for a Better Waterfield, delved deeply into the developer’s proposal and the draft agreements presented by the board of directors at the town meeting. A member of the finance committee, a former MIT civil engineering faculty member in public-private partnerships, and a former head of the international infrastructure practice at a large Washington, DC law firm, Miller supports the petition to to reverse the town hall vote on section 6 to get Winchester a better deal.
“Prior to the presentation at the city meeting, neither the board of directors nor the city manager prepared a financial analysis of this 99-year lease,” Miller said. “The board and city manager appear to be relying solely on the developer’s submissions, which only cover the first 35 years of the 99-year lease. It’s troubling, as FinCom’s review indicates that the flows Developer’s cash flow could reach $ 3 billion over the 99-year span.
“The city has not solicited proposals from developers for the optimal and optimal use of this unique plot of land in the central business district. For example, a comparable 51,000 square foot development similar to that at 15 Dix Street, with 31 condominiums, could produce a sale value of $ 8-10 million in the first year and an annual addition to property tax revenue. over $ 500,000. Better use of the Waterfield Lot would result in a positive change in the city’s financial position that is far greater than the 2019 $ 10 million overrun.
“The internal workings of the agreement also raise sustainability issues. Analysis of the promoter’s figures shows that the project is viable as long as operating costs do not increase more than 2% faster than the rental income of the 20 units at market price. The margins are narrow. The risk for the city of becoming the owner of a bankrupt tenant was not managed in the land development contract submitted to the municipal assembly. The basic gap between the life of the lease – 99 years – and the life of the main construction systems of the project – 35 years – was also not properly managed in the land development agreement ( LDA).
For more information, visit https://letwinchestervoteonwaterfield.com.