January 2009
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Here's a number that's hard to believe: 2,952. That's the number of CPA projects that have been approved by Massachusetts communities since the Act was signed into law in 2000. But the real success of CPA can found in the details of each of these terrific projects. The Coalition is looking to honor the best of the best in CPA projects with The Robert Kuehn Community Preservation Award, and there's even a cash award for the winners. The deadline for CPCs to nominate projects is January 31st, and more details are available here.

CPA News
coalition news

CPA Trust Fund Update
This past fall, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) estimated that next October's first round trust fund match percentage will fall from this year's 68% to approximately 35% (communities assessing the maximum 3% CPA surcharge will receive more, based on the Act's distribution formula). DOR's estimate is based on the assumption that the CPA trust fund will take in $27 million in revenue from fees charged at the state Registries of Deeds this year, the same amount collected last year.

In the current economy, however, reaching $27 million in deeds fee revenue may be a challenge. The state CPA trust fund year runs from September through August. In September 2008 CPA trust fund collections were $1.99M, down from $2.70M in 2007. October 2008 collections were $1.88M, down from $2.02M in 2007, and November collections were $1.96M, down from $2.27M in 2007. So, in the first three months of the trust fund year, revenue is down by $1.16M.

It's not all bad news. Falling interest rates are spurring an increase in mortgage refinancing, which in turn may lead to more transactional fees for the CPA trust fund. We will continue to monitor the trust fund collections each month, and report on the figures in future issues of CPA Update.

Grants Available for Historic Preservation and Open Space
The Massachusetts Historical Commission has announced the latest round of the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund grant program, and the deadline is February 20th. This state-funded grant program provides 50% reimbursement to municipal or nonprofit preservation projects, including properties, landscapes and sites listed in the State Register of Historic Places. Eligible projects include pre- development, development and acquisition projects, and grant awards range from $5,000 to $100,000. To apply, click here or call 617-727-8470.

In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation Services announced a special funding round for open space purchases, with up to $500,000 available per project. The deadline for applications is March 12th. To apply, click here.

Coalition Hires Communications Director
Thanks to the generosity of a longtime foundation supporter, the Coalition was able to expand our staff this year. Alison Mitchell joined the Coalition as its new half-time Communications Director. Prior to joining the Coalition, Alison served as Communications Director for the state Treasurer's office and as a staff attorney at a local non-profit organization. Alison will work on the Coalition's website redesign, newsletters, annual report and other projects.

Legal News: CPA and Recreation
istock law book

While the lawsuit in Newton attracted headlines recently regarding the legality of using CPA funds for certain recreational projects, another CPA recreational lawsuit was working its way through the system. On October 29, 2008, a Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by taxpayers in Wayland seeking return of CPA funds spent on an athletic field, ruling that the taxpayers did not have standing to obtain relief. The court's ruling did not address the legality of using CPA funds for such a field.

Responding to Revocation and Surcharge Reduction Efforts

Each year, a handful of communities face efforts aimed at revoking CPA or reducing their CPA surcharges. This issue has come up most recently in Boxford, Marshfield and Nahant. To date, not one community has revoked CPA, and only one has reduced its surcharge (Ayer in 2002). With the current economic downturn, we expect that more communities will face campaigns to revoke CPA or lower CPA surcharges in the near term. While all communities are facing growing fiscal challenges, it is important that CPA supporters help educate their communities on why CPA revocation or surcharge reduction is not beneficial in the long run.

Shedding Light on the Meaning of "Create"
By Jennifer M. Goldson
Light Bulb

It is helpful to periodically review the definition section of the Community Preservation Act (Section 2 of MGL c.44B), where many of the terms used in the CPA are defined, including "community housing," "historic resources," and "rehabilitation." The definitions provide important information with regard to CPA eligibility. For example, it is within the definition of "rehabilitation" where we learn that work to bring historic resources into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is eligible for CPA funding.

However, there are two key terms that the CPA statute uses, but does not define: "create" and "support." The uncertain meaning of these terms, particularly "create", has led to confusion over the eligibility of projects in some communities. A few communities have asked the Department of Revenue (DOR) to provide guidance on their meaning and, in fact, the ambiguous meaning of "create" was a central part of the recent lawsuit in Newton over CPA recreational spending.

Negotiating for Open Space Acquisitions
Wilbraham RNP article photo

When communities are attempting to acquire open space, it is often beneficial to have a third party handle negotiations in private on behalf of the municipality. In addition to local land trusts, The Community Preservation Coalition's partners, including the Trust for Public Land (TPL), Mass. Audubon and the Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), can help CPA communities meet their goals by providing land acquisition expertise. TPL has prepared a guide to the benefits of using a third party for CPA open space acquisitions.

This Issue's Featured CPA Project

This issue's featured CPA project is a Habitat for Humanity housing project in the Town of Scituate. Scituate voters approved CPA at Town Meeting in 2002 with a 3% surcharge, and since then, more than 40 projects have been completed or are currently in progress.

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Stuart Saginor
Community Preservation Coalition

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