CPA committee eager to start hearing proposalsBy Jay Turner
The Canton Community Preservation Committee — the local agency tasked with reviewing requests for Community Preservation Act funds and recommending projects to town meeting — has recently finalized its application process and is almost ready to start listening to proposals, reported committee chairman Lisa Lopez.
While normally this process would wait until the fall, Lopez said the committee at least wanted to update the public on its progress in the event that the Board of Selectmen decides to call a special town meeting, as has been rumored for months in connection with the Plymouth Rubber development site.
If a special town meeting were to be called, then the CCPC could conceivably recommend its first project for the warrant — provided, of course, that it met the requirements of the CPA statute.
“We at least want to give the townspeople enough time to go through the process,” explained Lopez, who is admittedly eager to see the new CPA funds put to work.
Under the terms of the legislation approved by Canton voters in the last November election, any applicant, whether public or private or a combination of the two, can submit a proposal for funding in any one of the four categories covered by the CPA: historic preservation, open space, community housing, or outdoor recreation.
The nine-member CCPC, so named in order to avoid being confused with the town’s Capital Planning Committee (CPC), would then review the technical merits of the proposal in an open forum and decide whether to put it before voters at town meeting.
Funding for all such projects would come from a dedicated CPA account, financed by a 1 percent surcharge on the annual real estate tax levy for both commercial and residential properties and matched, at a certain percentage, by the state Community Preservation Trust Fund.
Lopez said the state matching funds, which are currently 26 cents on the dollar, would not be dispersed until year two; however, Canton will still have an estimated $480,000 at its disposal this year strictly from the surcharge.
And while the town is under no obligation to allocate those funds by year’s end, Lopez said the CCPC would like to see some ideas brought to the table sooner rather than later.
“My hope is that the [town boards] that are represented on the committee are already thinking of projects they want to recommend,” said Lopez. “We are also looking for opportunities for perhaps some early signature projects to demonstrate the value of this initiative to the town.”
She noted that in other CPA communities, proposals have come from any number of groups — from historical commissions to parent-teacher organizations to private developers. In addition, she said that groups have successfully leveraged CPA funds with other funding sources to achieve otherwise unattainable objectives.
“We want to, from the very beginning, frankly, market this so that everybody understands that this is a town resource,” said Lopez, adding that, “Once the community becomes more knowledgable about the CPA, we’re hoping there will just be an abundance of great ideas to choose from.”
In the meantime, Lopez said the CCPC will continue to solicit input from various community stakeholders in order to develop a Community Preservation Plan, which is required of all CPA towns under state law.
The committee has already polled the membership of several town boards and will do the same with various community groups, such as the Canton Garden Club and Canton Little League, among others. They will also post a questionnaire on the town website in the coming weeks and will then hold two public hearings in the fall to gather feedback from residents, with the goal of completing the plan by October 1.
Lopez stressed that the Community Preservation Plan will help the CCPC’s vetting process and will give the members a better sense of what the town values.
“So it’s not just a gang of nine that are going to be making these decisions based on our personal preferences,” she said. “We’re going to make these decisions based on what the community wants in terms of projects.”
And the Community Preservation Plan will be a living document — subject to annual review and input from the town. Furthermore, the voters themselves are the only ones who will be authorized to appropriate CPA funds, and the CCPC is obligated to report annually to town meeting on the status of all ongoing projects.
“We really want this process to have lots of transparency to it,” said Lopez. “We want people to understand how projects get funded, how budgets are prepared, and we’d like to ultimately win over even the people who voted against the CPA, and to persuade them that these funds are going to be used in the best interests of the community.”
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