Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And the Rose Goes to...

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, led by Chairman Cedric Cromwell, have finally concluded their Southeast Massachusetts reservation shopping spree - and, as predicted - have settled on a patch of ground in Taunton, reportedly near Rtes. 24 and 140, off the same exit as the Silver City Galleria.

And I, for one, cannot wait to hear how this property once thrived under the vast reach of Cromwells Mashpee Wampanoag ancestors, when they weren't busy greeting the pilgrims and living on Cape Cod, and perhaps even more recently by former chairman, and steward of the orange jumpsuit, Glenn Marshall himself - who no doubt hunted wabbits in Taunton before shipping off to Vietnam where, as we know, he became a great war hero and eventual savior of the Middleboro economy.

(For those who don't know me, this is sarcasm.)

Well, folks the waiting's over.

Now the Tribe just has to submit a new application to the Federal government, wait for it to show up in the National Register, come up with a proposal, negotiate a local mitigation agreement, manage to convince 2/3's of the city to vote in favor of it, sit through several public hearings put on by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, allow the federal government to perform a complete environmental impact study, bypass two recent Supreme Court rulings, have the Dept. of the Interior take the land into trust and reach a compact with the State, all by July 31, 2012.

By the way, just for demonstration purposes of how likely this is, the first public BIA hearing in Middleboro occurred more than 7 months after the town vote.

But then, there's always the wild card.  It has been revealed that the the Tribe recently budgeted $6 Million of it's 2012 budget for 'gaming predevelopment' - and that could translate into a lot of political Ambien when it comes to keeping Cedric's dream alive in the halls of Congress - not to mention behind those perpetually closed doors on Beacon Hill.

So be careful Taunton.  Don't be in such hurry to rush down the aisle with someone you barely know...

Remember, even the most beautiful rose is doomed to shrivel and fade.  Then all you're left with are the thorns.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Let's Get Real

In Foxboro, where they're waging the all-too familiar war of the missing 'No Casino' sign, they're are also fighting the battle of the 'For Sale' Sign.

Whose data is more accurate when it comes to casinos and property values? 

Is it the gloomy report from the towns around Foxwoods citing millions lost in property values on roads leading to the casino, or perhaps the report with sunny statistics to show how property values actually go up around new casinos?

And is any existing property value data inconsequential to Foxboro if it involves only rural or urban communities?

And whose report is less independent. Whose is more reliable?

What's the answer, and who has it?

An apparent lack of substantive data from independent, peer reviewed sources, suggesting a correlation between home prices and casino development in New England towns like Foxboro, Bridgewater and Plainville has become a sticking point in the current debate.

But does it matter?

The first thing many people worry about when they hear a casino might be coming to their neck of the woods is how it would effect their property value.

Of course, they wouldn't be worrying about their property values at all if some instinctive impulse hadn't kicked in to let them know that there was probably something to worry about - even if that impulse had yet to encounter all the hard facts, disputable reports and sunny statistics that would be waiting to support or contradict it just a few mouse clicks away. 

Because property value is a real concern.  People are concerned about it.  And if owners are concerned, why shouldn't buyers be as well?

I mean, there are young people these days, just starting out, without a lot of money and a ton of debt, who nevertheless feel that stainless steel appliances and granite countertops are their birthright. Certainly the looming presence of a nearby casino would be enough to furrow their brows as they scanned the local listings.

Now, I'm not a realtor, but I have searched for home. And so I know, when you're concerned about something, like the fact that the home inspector says there are signs of termites and water damage, there's no way you want to pay full price for termites and water damage. You're going to want the owner to fix the problem or drop the asking price substantially.

As for me, I live on a road near a state prison. Originally, this was a major concern.  Why did I ultimately chose to build my home there? Well for one thing, because I got a sweet deal on the land. 

Years later, when I learned they wanted to build a casino down the street in Middleboro, I once again became concerned.

And I was not alone.  In fact...
Asked what type of development project they’d most like to see in their community... The most unwanted projects are a landfill (74 percent opposed), a casino (72 percent) and a quarry (59 percent).
In the world of real estate there are many causes for concern, not just those about a casino, but also for things like nearby high tension wires, poor school systems and skyrocketing crime rates that do not translate into increased buyer confidence.

And the transformation of a college town or bedroom community once viewed as bucolic and family-friendly, into a little slice of Sin City, is absolutely positively going to lead to an eventual decline in property values, and probably a change in residential demographics and traffic patterns as well.

Face it, casinos are a stigma. Now, to be sure, stigmas can be overcome, but not without a price. And I can guarantee you it's a price that won't be paid by mitigation, the state of Massachusetts or any billionaire casino investors.

It'll be paid by property owners in casino host towns and surrounding communities.  

Thanks Deval.

Not for nothing, but I've watched just about every episode of House Hunters that HGTV has ever aired.

And here is something you will never hear on House Hunters:
“We've decided to go with House #2 – the one next to the casino!!.....”
Unless it is immediately followed by
“because it's priced $100,000 less than the other 2 similar houses in other towns!!”
The mere fact that Massachusetts gambling legislation requires an agreement in place for 'community mitigation' - a phrase that essentially means 'money to help lessen the impact of some of the bad things that are definitely going to happen to your town' – before a casino can be built should be enough to give anyone with an investment in their community – whether it's in property, business, family, or quality of life - a reason to question the shiny sparkly promises of casino investors and their self-interested local operatives.

“Will a casino lower my property value?”

It's the first question I asked, it's the first question everybody asks.

So fight the battle of the 'For Sale' Sign if you will.   Dissect every word, distill every phrase in those reports. Debate the whole thing to death on Facebook and blogs, on web forums and in comment sections.

But let's get real. Isn't the fact that people on both sides are currently scrambling to prove that it does or that it doesn't, while others merely search for an answer at all, enough for us to agree that the age-old question of whether a casino will decrease property values is, at the very least, a genuine, valid, de facto concern.

And if that much is true, then couldn't the current debate very well mirror a tomorrow where skeptical home buyers wonder the same question out loud, and local realtors assuage their concerns with offers of sweet deals and scores of sunny statistics?