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BOSTON-As the state legislature ended its formal session Wednesday night, its passage of the Omnibus housing bill was heralded by local developers’ groups as a victory. The bill awaits Governor Jane Swift’s signature before it can be signed into law.

“There is no indication that she will veto this bill,” David Begelfer, executive director of the National Association of Office and Industrial Properties, tells GlobeSt.com. “Our expectations are that it will pass.”

Begelfer has a lot riding on that approval as his group has been working for six years to get a local developmental tool, District Improvement Financing, included in the bill. The financing essentially provides municipalities with a funding alternative for public improvements. “This comes at a perfect time, with everyone tightening their budgets,” Begelfer points out.

The alternative that DIF provides is that it gives a municipality the ability to fund capital improvements using bond financing. According to NAIOP, this differs from the state’s current version primarily by focusing on a development district, not on a specific singular project. With the DIF, infrastructure would be financed out of the real estate tax increment for an entire district–not just one parcel. Property owners in the district do not pay additional fees for these bonds; the increased value of their real estate taxes goes to a dedicated fund to pay off the bonds. Once the bonds are repaid, the municipality has the full use of all the real estate taxes, and, at their discretion, may fund other community efforts.

“If infrastructure improvements are there, then developers will come in,” says Begelfer. “It gives municipalities the ability to attract developers.” Begelfer notes that Quincy and Worcester are two cities that are already thinking about utilizing this financing tool.

In another victory for developers, the Livable Communities Act, which was to be part of the Environmental Bond Bill, was not passed. The legislation, says Begelfer, “would have been a problem for developers.” According to NAIOP, this would have created “an ambitious initiative to substantially empower Regional Planning Authorities, establish a ‘super council’ to approve all infrastructure allocations, and force the vague concept of ‘smart growth’ into municipal, regional and state policies, as well as becoming a part of the state’s formal MEPA review of public and private projects. A Council for a Sustainable Commonwealth would have also been created to oversee state capital spending by every agency and department, slowing down an already cumbersome process.”

Begelfer does applaud the passage of the bill to establish a Comprehensive Wastewater Re-use and Greywater Management Plan. “It’s a major win,” he says. “It gets the Department of Environmental Protection to make it easy for developers to do the right thing.” The bill directs the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a comprehensive water re-use management plan that pertains to the discharge and re-use of water from residential, commercial and public buildings and facilities. “It streamlines the process while keeping water protection a viable alternative for businesses,” adds Begelfer.

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