Published on Novemer 18, 2012 at 7 PM.

Did the developer who wants to rezone front street to nearly triple the number of units he can build mislead the city?  What’s at stake?  You decide.

Past performance does not guarantee future results. This is something I am legally bound to share with my clients when we discuss possible investments. While this is a prudent disclaimer in the investment world, one has to wonder whether or not it applies to real estate developers and the projects they build.

I refer, of course, to the proposed rezoning on Front Street that would enable a developer, by their documents and testimony, to construct up to twenty seven, three bedroom rental units where a single family home currently sits on just over two acres of land. The developer’s request has made its way through the process and now only needs final approval from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA).

Were I an alderman, using history as a guide, I would vote to decline the request as the city’s seen this movie before with this developer in the starring role.

First, let’s address the developer’s claims.

They say they’re targeting a “young professional” clientele with their three bedroom apartments priced at $1,600 per month. They claim the “YPs” will choose their housing over the area’s two bedroom units priced from $1,700 to $1,800. “Money talks” said the developer’s representative at a recent subcommittee meeting. They use the example of a young professional couple from Germany, with no kids. in one of their Bodwell Road developments as proof of what this development would attract.

In response to a direct question from Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Craig, chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction on zoning matters, about the number of children expected, the developer gave what could only be considered a meandering, non-responsive answer. They used their recent development on Spring Garden Street, which has four, three bedroom units and only two children as an example, implying the same would happen on Front Street. They said that what children would be there would come from the surrounding neighborhood because parents don’t like to change schools.

Then they said they were planning to install “a play area for kids.” They also failed to mention who would fill the vacancies created in the surrounding neighborhood by those who moved to their units. Is it not logical to assume that units that once housed kids would house them again?

Among this developer’s two dozen holdings are two similar developments: Cohas Brook at 1791 Bodwell Road developed in 2006 and Whitetail Crossing at 1095 Bodwell Road developed in 2004. Both were single family properties until this developer came on the scene.

According to tax assessing records, Whitetail Crossing once contained two, two bedroom single family units on nearly two acres of land, built in 1965 and 1969. They’re now neighbors to 26 three bedroom units built by this developer on that same 1.9 acre parcel. Valued at nearly $2.8 million, the development will pay $61,935.43 in taxes at the current tax rate. According to school district records, it also houses 31 children who attend Manchester public schools.

Cohas Brook has similar numbers. The existing four bedroom single family was built in 1964 on just over 3.5 acres of land. Today, it’s neighbors with 20, three bedroom units. Valued at just over $3.8 million, it pays $84,774.18 in taxes at the current rate and houses 27 public school children.

Total taxes paid by this developer on these units: $146,713.61.

Total cost of school children using the current per pupil average cost of $10,000: $580,000.

Therefore, not counting “city expenses” like police, fire, public works, etc…for every dollar collected in tax revenue, the city spends $4 just for schools. That means every taxpayer in the city must pay higher taxes to offset the significantly increased expenses caused by developments like this.

Since this developer’s representatives themselves referenced these Bodwell Road developments as the model for what they’d do on Front Street, shouldn’t the city use past performance as an indicator of future results? If it does, it can expect about $77,000 in tax revenues and 30 school kids costing $300,000, not counting other city services; a cost of $4 for every dollar in tax revenue.

Not only does this kind of “development” have to stop, there is precedent for stopping it. Ironically, it can be found in the denial of a rezoning request made by this very developer for a large parcel of suburban single family land on South Mammoth Road. Former Ward 8 Alderman Betsi DeVries blocked it. This board should do the same lest taxpayers be saddled with higher taxes to offset these predictable losses.