GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 11, 2012

Rockport workshop eyes new CPA uses

By Marjorie Nesin Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — With Community Preservation Funds being allowed for some expanded uses this year, this town’s Community Preservation Committee is hosting a workshop Tuesday for those residents or groups interested in applying for the money.

The Community Preservation Act dollars are generated both through residents’ paying a surcharge of between 0.5 percent to 3 percent on their local property taxes, and through a partial match from the state, whose share of CPA money comes from fees paid on property deed transfers.

Rockport voters agreed to pay the local tax surcharge of 3 percent. The town is the only one of Cape Ann at the CPA maximum rate, and Community Preservation Committee Chairwoman Mary Francis said the higher percentage allows Rockport’s Community Preservation Committee to fund more projects than other communities.

“The primary purpose of the Community Preservation Act was to enable municipalities to fund projects that aren’t normally covered in municipal operating funds,” Francis said. “It’s the fall workshop when people decide what they want to do for next year.”

That fall workshop is slated for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the community room at the town’s police station.

Francis said some years the committee generally sees about 12 applications through the entire process, starting with the workshop.

“We educate the applicants as to what the process is and what they need to do,” Francis said. “They usually walk out understanding that it’s more involved than they thought, but most of the applicants are prepared to go forward because they know they have until spring to do the work they need to do. That’s why we have it early.”

Legislation passed earlier this year allows the committee to finally fund projects on public land that was not bought by the committee.

In Gloucester, the city’s Community Preservation Committee is looking to steer $300,000 in CPA money into the $3.5 million Newell Stadium project, which was not eligible for CPA funding in the past. And in Rockport, the newly passed legislation opens the door to projects like fixing up the tennis courts at the Old Pingree School, which is situated on town-owned land, Francis said.

Francis said that in past years, including last year, the Community Preservation Committee has received requests that they would have loved to fulfill but were unable to fund because the projects were on town-owned land.

“We had a request, Amelia’s Playground for handicap children, that we would have loved to support,” Francis said. “But we couldn’t.”

Rockport’s uses for CPA dollars in the past have included buying watershed land for protection, helping repair historic buildings — including the Community House, for which the CPC borrowed against future CPA revenues to carry out a $2 million renovation project — funding elderly housing, and preserving other private and public buildings and artwork.

“I think Rockport citizens have become very savvy about community preservation funding,” Francis said. “They understand how it’s been helpful to the town,” Francis said.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.