December 2007: The Department of Revenue (DOR), which oversees the CPA program, has changed their guidance on the correct way for a Community Preservation Committee (CPC) to take a vote at their meetings, including a vote to recommend a project to the legislative body. Based on input from the Attorney General, DOR now advises communities that CPC actions are to be approved by a vote of the majority of the quorum.
First the background. Section 5(c) of the Act states that “…the Community Preservation Committee shall approve its actions by majority vote.” Unfortunately, that isn’t clear. Communities were uncertain if you needed a majority vote of the entire committee membership or just a majority of those that are present at the meeting the night the vote is being taken?
In an attempt to make it more clear, in December of 2000 DOR issued the following guidance on page 23 of Informational Guidance Release (IGR) No. 00-209:
“A majority vote of the entire committee membership is needed to take any action.”
That meant that if you had a nine-member CPC, and only five showed up at a meeting, you would need all five members to vote yes to pass a motion! In the Spring of 2007, the Town of Boxford CPC asked for further clarification from DOR. In its email response, DOR wrote the following:
“We plan to update the CPA IGR (00-209 as amended) in the next few months to reflect recent legislation and other events since it was issued. Last year, the Attorney General disapproved a portion of a community's CPC by-law on this very issue and in doing so ruled that the CPC can act by a majority of the quorum. We accept the AG's interpretation and will conform our guidelines to it when we revise them.”
So the answer is now finally clear: Once you have a quorum of your entire CPC membership present and you begin your meeting, the CPC can approve its actions with a majority vote of the quorum present at the meeting.