Public outreach is an important part of the responsibilities of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) in each CPA city and town. At a minimum, the CPC is required to hold a public hearing each year to get feedback on the city or town's priorities for community preservation, write a Community Preservation Plan based on that feedback and update it every year. Although the law is ambiguous about the need to have a hearing each year, the Department of Revenue confirmed in a CPA guidance document (Page 24 of IGR 00_209) that a hearing must be held “as part of the initial study and annual review process.”
Here is what the CPA law says in Section 5(b) (1):
As part of its study, the committee shall hold one or more public informational hearings on the needs, possibilities and resources of the city or town regarding community preservation possibilities and resources, notice of which shall be posted publicly and published for each of two weeks preceding a hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in the city or town.
There is no specific timing specified for the hearing during the year. It is not required to have a CPA hearing before Town Meeting, nor is it required to have a hearing on the CPA projects that the Community Preservation Committee has recommended to the legislative body.
Some communities have two hearings a year – one at the beginning of the year to get community feedback, and another to review CPC recommendations before they are referred to Town Meeting or the City Council. But a second hearing on projects is optional—the law only requires one hearing for the purpose of getting community feedback on overall CPA needs in town.
But a strong CPA program includes lots of public participation. Many communities have come up with creative and innovative ways to spread the word about their CPA annual hearing and actively encourage community participation and input. Some examples of this outreach include:
- The Town of Tisbury ran newspaper ads to drive attendance to their upcoming public hearings.
- The Town of Hanson printed a full color brochure, “The Benefits of the Community Preservation Act Funds”.
- The Town of Arlington sent out media alerts to place announcements about their upcoming public hearings in major newspapers.
- Newton held a “Happy Birthday CPA” celebration and an open house at the High School.
- Salem has issued a press release every year advertising their public hearing.
- Boston created a "What's on Your Shopping List?" flyer that invited residents to participate in a community-wide forum discussing upcoming CPA projects.
- Some other great examples of outreach flyers include the City of Somerville and the Town of Yarmouth advertising their public hearings.
- The City of New Bedford put together an extensive powerpoint presentation for their hearing to educate residents about the future goals for their program.
If your community has done any outreach or held any public engagement events for your local CPA program, please let us know!