For all the safeguards and other regulations guiding the use of any money raised through the state’s Community Preservation Act, there had long been one that never made sense.
That was a provision that, while encouraging the preservation of open space, limited the CPA’s use to either acquiring what would be new city or town-owned land, or maintaining and improving open space and recreation sites a community had bought with CPA dollars, but not for sites a city or town already owned.
That meant that Gloucester was prohibited from using any of its CPA money for rebuilding Gloucester High School’s Newell Stadium, and it meant Rockport could not steer any of its money into another worthy project — Amelia’s Playground for handicapped children.
Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. Under a set of CPA provisions approved by the state’s Legislature this past June, cities and towns — who raise their roughly two-thirds share of all CPA dollars through a surcharge on the local property tax — are now allowed to direct that money toward parks and other facilities the city or town already owns. In Gloucester’s case, that means channeling some $300,000 in CPA money into the so-called “Newell Renewal” effort. And in Rockport, it could include making playground or other improvements that have been heretofore off-limits.
With that in mind, Rockport’s Community Preservation Committee is hosting a workshop tonight at 7 in the community room of the town’s police station, with an eye toward providing residents and representatives of groups that may now be eligible for CPA funding with information as to what kind of money may be available — and how they can pursue it. And that’s the type of workshop that other Cape Ann communities — all of whom utilize the CPA, with local surcharges of between 0.5 (Essex) and 3.0 (Rockport) percent – should host as well.
The CPA, which also draws a roughly 30 percent match from the state through property deeds fees, is being seen by more and more communities as a viable alternative funding source to advance projects that would otherwise be put on hold, or shelved altogether. And workshops such as tonight’s should indeed help spread the word – and the wealth.
Let’s hope Rockport’s session and others like it draw the level of interest they deserve.