Friday, November 23, 2007
CPA application timetable released Library may apply for funds to fix leaks
Carlisle has over $800,000 available for dispersal in the next round of Community Preservation Act (CPA) projects, and the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) will explain the application process at a public meeting on Thursday, December 6. CPC members met on November 15 to discuss their goals and constraints for project review, and reaffirm their January 11, 2008 deadline for applications.
The CPA allows the town to collect a 2% surcharge on real estate taxes to be used for qualifying projects relating to community housing, historic and open space preservation and public recreation. The CPC makes recommendations on the applications to Town Meeting, where voters have the final decision on project funding.
The committee plans to meet with applicants to review the requests during the second half of January and early February, and intends to vote by mid-February on which applications to recommend to Town Meeting, which is scheduled for May 5, 2008. Application forms can be obtained at Town Hall or by contacting CPC chair Kelly Guarino by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CPC has not received any applications yet, but one request that is expected is for restoration to Gleason Library, which is suffering from water damage. According to Library Trustee Priscilla Stevens, a major reason for the damage is that when the library was expanded in 2000, new mortar was applied over old and moisture was trapped inside. She said that as a result, bubbling in the interior paint is visible on the front wall in the children's area on the second floor. The work is intended to restore the damaged walls but not otherwise alter the appearance of the structure.
The library has a preliminary bid of $167,000 for the project from historical restoration builder David Bergquist, who has worked on the library in the past, Stevens said. In the next couple of weeks the library will meet with members of the CPC, Selectmen, Finance Committee and Historical Commission to show them the areas of damage and discuss funding.
Stevens noted that leaks have been a recurring problem for the building over the past 75 or 80 years. The library was built in 1895 and expanded in 1973 and 2000.
The committee refined a list of goals they plan to use in conjunction with the state Department of Revenue's requirements when judging applications. The CPC goals document is based on one from Westford, and CPC member Kent Gonzales felt it would "help the applicants focus" as they draft their requests. CPC member Julia Lavely felt the committee goals would help explain why the committee might prefer some projects over others.
The list of goals is still a work in progress and will be revised in the coming months. General goals include: serves a community purpose with a public benefit; preserves a resource that would otherwise be lost; and/or leverages other public and private resources to the greatest extent possible.
In summarizing the committee priorities, Guarino said the CPC likes projects that meet multiple purposes (like the Benfield Land purchase that addressed open space and recreation as well as housing needs). She said projects that accomplish concrete objectives are preferred to funding studies or surveys, and there is a high priority on affordable housing projects, "because that affects everything."
Until Carlisle meets the state's target of 10% affordable housing, the town remains vulnerable to high-density 40B developments that bypass local zoning regulations.
There are areas where it may be unclear if a certain project is allowed by the state. For instance, funding for remodeling, reconstruction and extraordinary repairs of historic buildings is allowed, but not normal "maintenance." The DOR publishes a table of allowable spending purposes, which is clarified and revised periodically.
One restriction discussed by the CPC is that funds may be used for remodeling and restoration of housing, open space or recreation lands only if the site was "acquired or created" with CPA funds. It was reported that efforts are underway at the state level to change this restriction, which currently does not permit funding for playground restoration, for example, but does allow funding for creating a new playground.
According to the DOR table, funds are not to be used for ongoing "support" of historic, open space or recreation properties. However, support funding is allowed for community housing, and CPA money may be directed to an affordable housing trust.
CPC joins state coalition
The committee voted at their October 18 meeting to join the Community Preservation Coalition, a state-wide CPA information and lobbying organization. According to their web site (www.communitypreservation.org), the "Members of the Coalition include: the Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA); the Keen Charitable Foundation; the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA); the Massachusetts Audubon Society; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; Preservation Massachusetts; and the Trust for Public Land (TPL)."
Coalition Executive Director Stuart Saginor spoke to the CPC about the group's activities. Its web site is a source of information, including the CPA legislation,DOR guidelines, announcements of workshops, a list of all towns which have adopted the CPA and a database of CPA funded projects.
Initially funded through foundation grants, the organization is now supported by membership dues which may be paid with CPA funds as an administrative expense. Carlisle's yearly fee will be $1,500. At the November meeting, the CPC decided to postpone joining until January in order to save a year's dues.
wanted for old projects
To better understand the amounts spent to date on previous projects, the committee is asking all groups that obtained CPA funding in the past to submit a project status report by December 14. Normally there is a delay between when Town Meeting authorizes CPA funds for a project and the time the money is spent, but depending on unforeseen events projects may experience additional delays or cancellation. For example, in 2006 Town Meeting authorized the Selectmen to spend up to $200,000 for two additional units of affordable housing in the Coventry Woods development; however, the project has been tied up in litigation and construction has not begun. Other projects may not need all their allotment. To make unexpended project funds available for reuse after a suitable period, the CPC has begun to add "sunset" clauses to Town Meeting motions.
Last year, the Town approved $361,715 in CPA projects, including: $300,000 for the Pathways Project, $25,000 for the Council on Aging population needs survey, $25,000 to demolish the cottage on the Greenough Conservation Land, and $11,715 for signage on conservation properties.
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