Friday, October 22, 2004
Legislators fear change in CPA, Hanscom closing
Area legislators attending the MAGIC legislative breakfast in Bedford last week were keenly focused on two possible local developments that will affect Carlisle and other MAGIC (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination) towns profoundly: possible loss of CPA matching funds and the closing of Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford.
Is CPA threatened?
All participants agreed with Representative Cory Atkins' (D-Concord) statement that the Community Preservation Act (CPA) fund "needs to be protected to the utmost" in the face of possible changes to the plan. Atkins is the incumbent state representative from this district. Selectmen and Planning Board members from MAGIC towns went so far as to talk about "a raid on the CPA fund." They were skeptical about the state's financial ability to match local contributions to CPA, and the consensus was that if the state did not match local tax contributions to CPA, the matching money would have to come from local sources. The legislative breakfast was held in Bedford's Old Town Hall, fresh from a $26 million restoration made possible by CPA funds.
Massachusetts towns that voted to participate in the Community Preservation Act (CPA) can levy a surcharge of up to 3% on real estate taxes, with the money to be spent as follows: 10% for open space preservation, 10% for historic resources, 10% for community housing, and 70% to be spent according to recommendations of a Community Preservation Committee (CPC). The state matches up to 100% of funds collected by the levy. CPA is nearing its fifth anniversary.
Carlisle's CPA money contributed to the Benfield Land purchase last year. Suburban communities have invested in the fund more generously than urban centers and, in fact, in Boston the CPA didn't even come up for a vote. Towns fear that "we all put something into the plan and your group (the 50% urban group) goes and changes it."
No specific plan for change has been proffered at this time, but there is strong common recognition that the current financing is threatened and that there will have to be changes for the CPA program to survive. That recognition implied that everyone concerned would have to be both vigilant and flexible in order to keep the program afloat and not sink it entirely.
Hanscom: "An elephant
in the room"
Sarah Mattes of Lincoln, chair of HATS (Hanscom Area Towns), said, "There is an elephant in the room we have not put on the table and that is Hanscom [Field]." It is not certain yet whether Hanscom will continue as a government or a private airfield. Mattes thought it "very unlikely we get Hanscom off the list for closure." She cited a Department of Defense grant for $175,000 for preplanning for Hanscom closure.
Area representatives believe that the closure of the air force base would have great impact on the total area, not just the four communities that formed the original HATS group. Replacing the air force will be an enormous expansion of retail trade, education, traffic and housing. Bedford's Gordon Feltman said "We can't house any more." Without existing housing and transportation facilities, "we are going to be really hard hit," commented current MAGIC chairman Donna Jacobs. One consequence would be "a huge sucking sound in terms of retail office space" as retail venues scramble for space.
Lacking a final disposition of the private vs. public classification of the Hanscom facility, members see their only current option for action is to support HATS, to be vigilant as Hanscom plans develop, and to stay actively in touch with each other.
MAGIC is a subregion of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the regional planning agency for the 101 communities of metro Boston. MAGIC consists of local officials from Acton, Bedford, Bolton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Hudson, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard and Stow. Members meet monthly to exchange ideas and plan activities related to multi-community planning, infrastructure and service delivery.
Carlisle was represented at the meeting by David Freedman of the Planning Board.
© 2004 The