To those who support tax breaks for downtown property owners, which ultimately will be paid for by Westfield homeowners, I offer the following food for thought.
As was true in the past, in recent years multi-millions of dollars have been invested in downtown Westfield real estate by commercial property owners in the absence of any tax abatements. For example, both the Trader Joe's and Ferraro's buildings were totally rebuilt from the ground up; the Addams Tavern building was substantially expanded and remodeled; and major renovations have been made to the former Children's Place building and the “flatiron” building at Elm and Quimby, among others. All without a single dollar in public tax incentives.
So why are abatements suddenly needed? And why vote on them now, during a pandemic and with public outreach and input constrained by a state of emergency? One might conclude that Mayor Brindle and her Council colleagues are hoping to curry favor with potential donors in the next election.
When ordinary residents improve their homes, they pay the price in higher taxes. Owners of downtown properties should do the same, especially because they are under no obligation to share with their tenants the hand-outs they will receive from the Brindle Administration. Nor will those owners share their profits with the Town when their property is sold at a higher price due to improvements made as a result of the Mayor’s property tax breaks.
Mayor Brindle is effectively using residents’ tax dollars to subsidize commercial property owners, who have shown no need for the help. Is it any surprise that our Town surplus is disappearing? Our Town government should stay out of the commercial real estate business.