Manchester Passes First-of-its-Kind Surcharge Increase at Town Meeting

April 8, 2014: Yesterday, the Town of Manchester got one step closer to realizing a 50+ acre community preservation project to provide the town with new athletic fields and more than 30 acres of conservation land. The land for the project, estimated at a $2 million fair market value, was donated by Manchester Athletic Club owner John Donovan at no cost. However, his donation is contingent on the town approving and developing the land for athletic fields within a reasonable period of time, generally agreed to be 18 months.

To meet this contingency, the town proposed an increase to their CPA surcharge from 1.5% to 3%. This would not only provide the funds over time to repay a $4.5 million dollar, 15-year bond for the majority of the project's cost, but would make Manchester the first community to ever successfully increase their CPA surcharge two separate times if the question passes at the ballot. The first increase, from .5% to 1.5%, occurred in 2010, five years after the town initially adopted the Act.

This specific project and the surcharge increase required three distinct articles on Manchester's April 7th Town Meeting warrant:

Article 9: To approve the donation of the "Donovan property" land, with a required majority vote.

Article 10. To approve a 15-year CPA bond of $4.5 million with annual payments of $390,000 for the project, with a required majority vote and contingent on the approval of a CPA surcharge increase (Article 11).

Article 11. To approve the increase in CPA surcharge from 1.5% to 3.0%, with a required majority vote.

Manchester residents voted to pass all three motions at last night's Town Meeting, enabling both the CPA surcharge increase and the project to be placed on the ballot for final approval at the town's next election on May 20th. 

Located off Atwater Avenue in Manchester, the Donovan Park site aims to utilize land for both recreation and conservation purposes. The outdoor atheltic plans include the construction of a full-size baseball diamond, multi-use sythetic-surface athletic fields and an eight-lane track. The conservation land would have a  permanent conservation easement placed by John Donovan and likely held by a conservation organization. This portion of the land would also be open to the public for hiking, biking, dog walking and cross-country skiing. In addition to the CPA bond, the remaining $500,000 of the project's total $5 million cost, including the purchase of artificial turf which is not allowed with CPA funds, would be raised by the Friends of Donovan Park.

Update as of May 21, 2014:

Manchester residents passed the 3% surcharge increase at their spring ballot election on Tuesday May 20th with a 676 to 662 vote. Despite the passage of the increase, the Donovan Park project failed at the ballot box. The town has a unique, local bylaw that requires bonded projects exceeding a certain cost to have a 2/3 vote at the ballot. Normally CPA bonds don't even need to go to the ballot. Thus, even though the Donovan Park questions received roughly the same number of yes votes as the surcharge increase question, a simple majority vote was not enough to move the project forward.