In the spring of 2001, Easton voters adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA). The CPA had been enacted by the legislature to provide dedicated funding for the preservation of open space, historic resources and community housing. With statistics showing that open space in Massachusetts was being developed at a rate of 44 acres per day, our legislators realized that the opportunities to preserve open space were fast disappearing. If communities wanted to preserve open space for future needs, they would have to act soon. Easton’s voters adopted the CPA because they had the foresight to understand two things: (1) once Easton’s treasures are gone, they are gone forever; and (2) the CPA is an opportunity to access state matching funds to preserve the things that comprise Easton’s character and contribute to our quality of life.
CPA funding is provided through a local real estate tax surcharge and a statewide Registry of Deeds surcharge. The state funds are distributed to participating communities as matching funds. The state match can be as much as 100% of the total amount raised by a community, depending upon how much revenue is collected by the state and how many communities are participating. As of June 30, 2003, 61 communities had adopted the CPA. (There are two websites that contain background and other information on the Community Preservation Act. One is contained in the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs’ website at www.mass.gov/EEA and the other is at www.communitypreservation.org. The latter website provides updates on which communities have adopted the Act and the status of CPA projects.)
Easton’s CPA surcharge includes two exemptions: for the first $100,000 of assessed value for every residence; and an exemption for property owned and occupied by lower income persons. State matching funds are calculated in October of each year and are based upon the amounts collected during the preceding year. Easton started collecting CPA funds on July 1, 2001.
Every town that passes the CPA is required to appoint a Community Preservation Committee (CPC). A CPC has responsibility for administering the CPA within in a town. The CPC studies the needs and desires of the town, insofar as community preservation is concerned. It also reviews proposals for CPA funding and recommends CPA expenditures to Town Meeting.
CPA funds can be spent only for the purposes of open space preservation (conservation or recreation), historic preservation, and community housing and only after a favorable recommendation of the CPC, followed by town meeting approval. A community is required to spend or reserve for future spending a minimum of 10% of the CPA funds collected each year (including state match) for each of the following community preservation purposes: open space; historic preservation; and community housing.
Each community that passes the CPA does so for its own reasons. At the time Easton’s citizens passed the Community Preservation Act, those reasons included Easton’s long-standing record of supporting conservation and open space preservation; its support for providing recreational opportunities for Easton’s children; its pride in, and support for, preservation of Easton’s historic resources; and its value of Easton’s rural beginnings and desire to preserve some of its remaining scenic vistas, special places and landmarks for future generations.
Another reason for Easton’s support of the Community Preservation Act was a more basic, financial reason. As stated in the growth handbook issued by the Mass Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), open space is generally more beneficial fiscally to a community than single family residences. In other words, open space will not send additional children to our schools, demand town water or require road maintenance.
II. Community Preservation Needs and Goals (in relation to CPA)
The CPC is charged with studying the “needs, possibilities and resources” of the town regarding community preservation. To accomplish this task, the CPC engaged in a series of meetings with various town groups to determine the town’s community preservation goals and needs over the next five to ten years, and longer. The Committee heard presentations from the Recreation Commission, the Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission, the Planning and Zoning Board, and the Housing Authority. The Committee has reviewed the town’s recently Open Space and Recreation Plan. The Committee reviewed a number of town maps that illustrate the landscape and other features of the town, including locations of wetland areas, existing conservation lands, and special landscape features.
After meeting with the various boards and committees, the Committee realized Easton’s needs are many. There are a number of key land acquisitions described in the Town’s Open Space and Recreation Plan recommended to advance the Town’s open space, conservation and recreation goals. To accommodate population growth, increasing interest and the future needs, it is projected the Town will need additional neighborhood playgrounds or park areas and additional land for playing fields
In addition to its monthly meetings, the CPC intends to hold a public hearing each year for the purpose of hearing the views, thoughts and ideas of Easton residents on community preservation issues.