Friday, March 17, 2006
Rail Trail approved, other projects debated by CPC
When the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) met at Town Hall on March 1, progress was made towards deciding which applications for funding will be recommended at Town Meeting on May 1. One application was approved: $20,000 to design Carlisle's portion of the Lowell-to-Framingham Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.
Other projects, including an historical survey, incentive funding for affordable accessory apartments, and usage study of Foss Farm were all tabled pending more details from the applicants.
The next CPC meeting on April 6 is the last scheduled prior to Town Meeting, and final votes on the remaining applications are expected at that time. The CPC is responsible for reviewing all requests for spending town funds collected under the Community Preservation Act (CPA) 2% real estate tax surcharge. The CPC makes recommendations, and Town Meeting makes the final funding decisions. CPA money can be used for the purposes of open space preservation, community housing, historical preservation, and recreation.
Larry Sorli of the Historical Commission reviewed the specifics of a Historical Resources Survey. Anne Forbes, consultant for the survey, has quoted a price of $40,000 to assess and document all historic buildings, neighborhoods and landscapes. (This will not include Native American sites.)
An historical building is currently defined as a structure 50 years old and older. Sorli expressed concern that older housing stock was being torn down to make way for new construction. Considering the roughly 1,700 homes in town, and the various unique areas and landscapes, anticipated cost of this project was debated by CPC members. To refine the cost estimate, Sorli said he planned to compare the cost of these surveys in towns of similar size, such as Concord or Bolton.
Incentive program for apartments
The Affordable Accessory Apartment Task Force is requesting $90,000 for the incentive program for Affordable Accessory Apartments. As currently envisioned, the program would loan homeowners $15,000 for the purpose of constructing or renovating accessory apartments that meet state affordability requirements. As long as the apartment stayed affordable, $1,000/year of the debt would be forgiven. Carlisle housing Authority chair Alan Lehotsky explained that the task force is working with the CHA on the program. Money for the program may be transferred to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, pending creation of the Trust by Town Meeting.
One scenario might be that the Housing Trust receive the 10% of CPC funds earmarked by statute for affordable housing. A Municipal Housing Trust, (as enabled by Mass General Laws Chapter 44, section 55C) would be administered by a five-member board, to include at least one selectman. Money would be available quickly to handle real estate transactions, such as title searches or surveys, without having to wait for Town Meeting approval. Also, money allocated to the Trust would persist and not need yearly Town Meeting reauthorization. (For more information, see "CHA to Request Affordable Housing Trust Fund", Mosquito, February 3).
Caren Ponty, chair of the CPC, expressed basic concerns over who will be responsible for the Housing Trust funds and how transactions will be accounted for. For instance, if the Affordable Accessory Apartment program were discontinued, what would happen to the $90,000? Would it be returned to the CPC or kept by the Housing Trust? Lehotsky believes the money would stay in the Trust, "Once it goes into the Housing Trust, this becomes fungible(?) money." He noted, "The amount of money held in trust would not be large enough to do a whole project without going to Town Meeting. It would be big enough for a down payment." He then referred to the enabling legislation of housing trusts, stating they "can receive Community Preservation Act money". But the CPC is still undecided about granting it, pending further input and discussion.
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