Mac Everett: Objects to CPA money for for-profit project

Published: 9/22/2022 9:52:29 PM

Editor’s note: This letter went to the Northampton City Council and mayor.

Thank you for deciding to send the St. John Cantius matter to committees for further consideration about the possible allocation of Community Preservation Act funds.

My objection concerns the granting of CPA funds to a private, for-profit corporation that will result in a project whose public access is only a view from the street and thus whose “public good” is extremely limited.

At the last public comment session, one person claimed that granting money to private for-profit entities for historic preservation “happens all the time;” however reviewing the history of Northampton’s CPA grants suggests that is not the case at all.

Is there a possible win-win here? Personally, if at least three to five (ideally all 10 given our housing shortage) of the proposed apartments were designated “affordable,” I would support the grant with enthusiasm. I suspect others would too. And O’Connell Development Group, while taking in less rent, would benefit from much community goodwill and appreciation. Were they to demolish the church they would not be enhancing their business’ reputation here.

I recognize they are in business to profit, yet won’t they earn enough selling more than 20 luxury condos?

I expect that whoever eventually buys the historic St. Mary’s church would naturally also expect a taxpayer subsidy to preserve it, and might well claim that it should be demolished otherwise, given the valuable downtown real estate it occupies. Other private owners of historic properties might well follow suit. I respectfully disagree with the CPC’s insistence that a decision now in favor of O’Connell does not set precedent.

I am writing to you, and to the mayor, to urge your advocacy in direct talks with O’Connell to find a path that will settle this controversy in a constructive way we can all be proud of — by saving the church facade, adding to our affordable housing stock, and making a local hero of the developer.

Thank you for considering my opinion in this difficult matter.

Mac Everett



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