Cape Cod Times Calls CPA impact "staggering and eye opening."

Cape Cod Times

COMMUNITY PRESERVATION ACT

Fund boosts decade of Cape, Islands projects

The numbers are staggering and eye-opening: $323.2 million and nearly 1,700 community improvement projects completed in a 10-year period on the Cape and Islands.

Taylor Bray Farm, Yarmouth

OPEN SPACE MAY 2015: Preservation of the town-owned Taylor Bray Farm property in Yarmouth Port with removal of invasive species. Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times file

By Geoff Spillane


Posted Feb. 7, 2016 at 2:00 AM

BARNSTABLE — The numbers are staggering and eye-opening: $323.2 million and nearly 1,700 community improvement projects completed in a 10-year period on the Cape and Islands.

That’s how much money the 23 towns in Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties have received from the Community Preservation Act to fund those open space, historic preservation, outdoor recreation and affordable housing projects during the past decade.

Enacted in 2000 by then-Gov. Paul Cellucci, the Community Preservation Act can be adopted by municipalities by referendum ballot to create a fund to preserve and improve natural, recreational and historic resources. It is funded through a combination of local and state funds; locally, towns raise funds through a surcharge of up to 3 percent of property tax, while the state contributes through a Community Preservation Trust Fund administered by the Department of Revenue and funded by recording fees collected by the state’s registries of deeds.

In November, Gov. Charlie Baker announced a transfer of $10 million from the state’s fiscal year 2015 budget surplus to the trust fund, providing all CPA communities with at least a 29.7 percent match to local property tax surcharge receipts.

Most towns on the Cape and Islands voted to adopt the CPA in 2005, converting the Cape Cod Land Bank Act in their towns to the CPA. Chatham, Provincetown and Nantucket adopted the CPA earlier.

Each town has a Community Preservation Committee that determines which projects proposed by residents and town officials will be funded.

To date, 160 of the state’s 351 municipalities have adopted the CPA, according to the Community Preservation Coalition, a Boston-based organization that works with local and state governments to help preserve the unique character of communities in Massachusetts.

“We are continuing to see a lot of interest in the program and no community that has adopted it has revoked it, even though they can after five years. I think that speaks to its benefits,” said Katherine Roth, associate director of the Community Preservation Coalition.

For the Cape and Islands, though, the CPA has been especially successful, according to Roth.

“For the Cape it has been a boon in all respects. It helps support the Cape’s heritage and tourism industry, as well as provide affordable housing and preservation of the fragile ecosystem and environment,” she said.

By virtue of its size, Barnstable, the largest town on the Cape, has been the recipient of the most CPA funds during the past 10 years — $45.3 million.

“Some of the most important projects have been the restoration of town buildings, including town hall, the school administration building. The Custom House in Barnstable Village and the Old Selectmen’s Building in West Barnstable,” said Lindsey Counsell, chairman of the Barnstable Community Preservation Committee, adding that CPA funding allowed the structures to be restored to their historical importance.

“Without CPA funds we would not have been able to reach the Secretary of the Interior’s standards level of restoration, or a true historical restoration,” he said.

Barnstable’s CPC is currently working on a comprehensive evaluation of existing ballfields in town, so that it can update its recreation infrastructure, according to Counsell.

“The CPA has allowed us to protect important acreage in town and restore historic private and public properties, but now it is morphing into a program that will look very closely at recreation needs,” he said

The committee will also be focusing on affordable housing, but it has been difficult to locate land in the past since Barnstable is close to “build out,” according to Counsell.

Barry Rector, the Nantucket Planning Board liaison to the town’s CPC, has been involved with the CPA since it was adopted on the island in 2001, and served as the chairman of the committee for many years.

“It has worked very well on Nantucket,” he said. “It’s wonderful that there’s a partnership that allows us to utilize local and state funding to accomplish projects that normally wouldn’t be recognized in the community.”

Major and memorable Nantucket CPA projects include acquiring more open space on the island, partnering with Habitat for Humanity to create affordable housing, restoring historical documents, building a playground in a high-density area and working to restore historic buildings and churches, according to Rector.

‘I look at the whole list of projects and if they were left to private organizations or the town to take on, they would have been dependent on budgets and taken longer to complete,” Rector added.

The Community Preservation Coalition highlights several Cape and Islands CPA success stories on its website at communitypreservation.org. They include the relocation of the Gay Head Lighthouse in Aquinnah, school employee housing on Nantucket and an affordable housing apartment complex in Chatham.

 

— Follow Geoff Spillane on Twitter: @GSpillaneCCT.