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EDITORIAL: It’s Past Time

It is past time for the Community Preservation Committee to step up and conduct a thorough post-mortem review of the $400,000 of town funds lost on the Boynton Meadows development. The CPC should hold themselves accountable for understanding this loss and explaining how to prevent such losses in the future.
     The point of such a post-mortem review is not public penance, but a need to understand how it happened and how it can be prevented in the future. Lessons learned could help the CPC do a better job allocating funds for future projects.
     There are at least three areas that need a careful look. First, the CPC’s recommendation and presentation at Town Meeting need careful consideration. Even at the time, many felt that the presentation was confusing and over-promised huge benefits that were unlikely at best. Video tape of that Town Meeting is available so it is possible to review the presentation with a dispassionate eye.
     Second, the CPC needs to understand why they did not conduct better due diligence on the Affordable Housing Trust’s plan for spending the funds rather than just ‘assuming’ that they had expertise in this area. Just because the Affordable Housing Trust is an arm of government, expertise and capability should not be assumed.
     Third, the Committee needs to study how the Boynton Meadows property owners could have been protected. Even after the town’s loss, property owners at Boynton Meadows will have to spend substantial sums out of pocket to complete the project, a project in which the town was a partner.
     Some members of the CPC have deflected responsibility, arguing that they don’t actually ‘spend’ the funds but just make recommendations to Town Meeting voters. Therefore, they argue, Town Meeting is responsible for the loss, not the CPC. By this logic, Town Meeting is responsible for fiscal oversight of every dollar raised and appropriated at Town Meeting. Not hardly.
     We have heard other strained arguments from certain CPC members. Some justify the Boynton Meadows loss by arguing that the town got four affordable units in exchange for the $400,000. Not only was this not what voters voted for, but also most of the affordable units built were required under provisions of the Town Overlay District zoning bylaw.
     Generally, the CPC has done a good job recommending and overseeing spending of funds on individual projects. Their good work has been a boon to the town. But, $400,000 is a lot of money and the voters deserve a comprehensive reckoning of what happened. But, more importantly, voters need assurance that such a blunder will be avoided in the future.
     Members of the CPC are good and honest people, all serving in a volunteer capacity. We do not doubt and do not question their integrity. However, this loss needs to be understood and explained.
     Initially, Town Manager asked the CPC to refrain from conducting a post-mortem analysis of the loss because the town was pursing litigation to recover funds from the developer. Now all legal avenues have been exhausted and the Town Manager has said the CPC is free to conduct their post-mortem. We hope the CPC has the courage to get it done.
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