Community Preservation Committees

Composition and Duties

A group of CPA advocates, enthusiasts and Community Preservation Committee members meet during a 2010 CPA Conference in NorthamptonEach community that adopts the Community Preservation Act is required to establish a Community Preservation Committee (CPC) to administer the program. This requirement is found in Sections 5(a) through 5(c) of the CPA statute. The CPC is created by the local legislative body - Town Meeting, City or Town Council, or Board of Aldermen - which passes a bylaw or ordinance to that effect. The bylaw or ordinance spells out the committee's composition, length of member terms, and whether the optional "at large" positions are appointed or elected, as well as outlining the responsibilities of the new committee. The CPC can be established either at the same time that local efforts to adopt the CPA are being pursued or, more commonly, after CPA has been adopted.

Composition of the CPC

As detailed in Section 5(a) of the CPA statute, the CPC must consist of at least five members. It may contain up to four additional "at large" members, for a maximum committee size of nine.

Required members

There are five required members of a CPC - one voting member from each of the following municipal committees:

  • Conservation Commission (created by Section 8C of Chapter 40)
  • Planning Board (created by Section 81a of Chapter 41)
  • Historical Commission (created by Section 8D of Chapter 40)
  • Housing Authority (created by Section 3 of Chapter 121B)
  • Board of Park Commissioners (created by Section 2 of Chapter 45)

If one or more of the above committees has not been established in the community, then the bylaw or ordinance can identify another municipal body with similar functions that can designate one of its members to serve on the CPC.  Alternatively, an individual in the community with like expertise or experience in that field can be tapped to serve (see Section 5(a) for the exact wording of the statute on this option). For example, if a community has not established a local Historical Commission, but does have a Historic District Commission or Historic Society, then the bylaw or ordinance establishing the CPC could specify that a member of one of these existing committees could designate one of its members to serve as the Historic Preservation representative on the CPC.

Additional Members

At the discretion of the community, and codified in the local bylaw or ordinance that establishes the CPC, each adopting community can create up to four additional "at-large" members on their local CPC. These additional members can either be elected or appointed positions as determined by the adopting community. For example, a community could choose to have two at-large members appointed by the Board of Selectman (or City Council), one at-large member appointed by the Town Moderator, and one at-large member appointed by the Open-Space Committee. Another community might choose to have two elected at-large members and two members appointed by the Board of Selectman or City Council. There are many different possible options, and each community should decide what would work best for their particular situation. If a community wishes to focus on historic preservation work, for example, it might wish to reserve one of the four possible extra member slots on its CPC for an additional historic preservation expert. Read about elected CPC members in our 2013 news article.

CPC Responsibilities

The bylaw or ordinance establishing the CPC also serves to enumerate the responsibilities of the CPC. These three responsibilities are outlined in Sections 5(b) and 5(c) of the CPA statute.

Develop a Community Preservation Plan

The first responsibility is to study the needs, possibilities and resources of the community with regards to community preservation. In performing this research function, the CPC must meet and consult with other municipal boards and committees to get their input, and must hold at least one public hearing annually to get input from the general public. The public hearing must be posted publicly and advertised for two weeks preceding the public hearing in a local newspaper of general circulation. Following its research, the CPC is responsible for developing a local CPA plan to guide its decision-making on CPA project proposals. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR), which is the agency tasked by the statute with overseeing CPA, provides more information on this requirement in DOR Informational Guideline Release No. 00-209 (amended version) - page 24, “Annual Needs Study.” View sample plans from existing CPA communities.

Review and Recommend CPA Projects

The second responsibility of the CPC is to accept project proposals from the community, (typically on an application form that is developed locally), and conduct a thorough review of them, with the aim of selecting the most compelling projects for recommendation to the community's legislative body. Project proposals can be submitted to the CPC annually, bi-annually, or on a rolling basis, at the discretion of the CPC. Once the CPC has voted on a slate of projects to recommend, along with the specific dollar amounts and CPA funding sources it recommends to complete them, it forwards these to the community's legislative body for action. Typically the CPC will make a presentation to the Town Meeting or City or Town Council to describe its project recommendations and the reasoning behind its choice of that particular group of projects.

Keep Records and Report on the CPA Budget

The third responsibility of the CPC is a record keeping and budgetary responsibility. It is required to keep records of all CPC meetings, proposals, and recommendations, and to submit a CPA budget annually to the legislative body.

CPC Administrative Funds

In order to fund the work of the CPC, the CPA statute specifies that the committee may use up to 5% of the community's annual CPA revenues each year. However, the CPC must request these funds from the local legislative body (Town Meeting, City or Town Council, or Board of Aldermen) each year, in specific dollar amounts. The CPC’s administrative funds can be used for the same kinds of expenses budgeted for any town department or committee to carry out its mission each year, such as employee salaries, office expenses and contractual services. Learn more about the use of the CPC's administrative funds to hire administrative staff.