West Tisbury prepares to spend CPA funds
As in every other town on the Island, West Tisbury voters at next spring's annual town meeting will be asked to award funds generated by the Community Preservation Act (CPA).
At last week's selectmen's meeting, the West Tisbury Community Preservation Committee (CPC), established by an October 2005 special town meeting, presented a plan for the town's implementation of the CPA and a draft application process.
West Tisbury adopted the CPA at the April 2005 town meeting. Funds are raised by a three percent surcharge on property taxes, exempting the first $100,000 of each property assessment. It is expected that the money generated by the surcharge will be matched 100 percent by the state for the next three to five years, though the actual state contribution may vary from year to year based on the number of towns that enact the CPA.
CPC member Alexander DeVito estimated that West Tisbury will have $825,000 available next year for affordable housing, historic preservation, open space, and recreation projects.
The CPC will screen applications and consult with applicants, but can only recommend how to use CPA funds. Town meeting voters will decide. The committee, which has been meeting monthly since late January, includes Susan Phelps and Leslie Eaton (appointed at large by the selectmen), Peter Rodegast (representing the conservation commission), Eileen Maley (planning board), Sean Conley (historical commission), Bruce Keep (park and recreation), Al DeVito (finance committee), Caroline Locke (affordable housing), and Dale Julier (Dukes County Housing Authority).
The CPC's plan for administering the CPA is a 13-page document that borrowed heavily from existing studies and plans, according to co-chairman Caroline Locke. It contains a history of the CPA legislation and an overview of the present town resources and assets in the areas covered by the plan: open space, recreation, housing, and historic preservation. While the plan contains goals and objectives the CPC hopes to accomplish, the CPC plan contains no proposals. It is the role of the CPC to recommend projects proposed by others, not to develop them itself. The goals and objectives, Ms. Locke stressed, are not intended to limit the scope of projects, but only to give applicants some idea of the wide variety of possible proposals.
Ms. Phelps added that a project might cost as little as $2,000 or $5,000 - or as much as $500,000 over three years.
In response to a question from selectman Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter, Ms. Locke conceded that affordable housing was perhaps the main reason West Tisbury voters adopted the CPA in 2005. "There is a very large need for affordable housing," she said.
The CPC plan lists ten goals and objectives for what it calls "community housing." Some of them are:
· Support nonprofit and for-profit developers in the creation of affordable rental and home ownership units....
· Work to ensure that current affordable restrictions do not expire.
· Designate a percentage of developable vacant town-owned land [for affordable housing]....
· Seek to develop a community consensus on additional appropriate measures for creating affordable housing....
· Provide mortgage assistance to income-qualified homebuyers and homeowners in exchange for permanent resale restrictions.
However, not all CPA funds can be spent on affordable housing. At least ten percent must be spent for open space, ten percent for historic preservation, and up to five percent for administration. After ten percent has been spent on open space, funds may also be expended for recreation. The committee lists seven goals for open space, five for recreation, and five for historic preservation.
How to apply
The only way to CPA money is through the CPC. Voters will be asked to approve, reduce, or reject the warrant articles proposed by the CPC. They may not increase the amount recommended nor transfer the funds to projects not presented in the warrant. A warrant article by citizen petition could not access CPA funds.
Town boards, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and individuals may apply. To qualify for funds at the April town meeting, applications must be complete by Nov. 1 of this year in order for the CPC to consider proposals and make recommendations in time to make the warrant for the April town meeting, which closes in February. This year's application process is foreshortened because the CPC did not begin meeting until January. Next year's process will be a full year's cycle.
CPC member Susan Phelps described the application process. She explained that the CPC borrowed heavily from other towns, on and off the Island, which have accepted the CPA. She mentioned that perhaps in the future there will be a standard, Island-wide application process, but at the moment, each town is on its own.
The first step is a one-page eligibility form, which for next spring's funding cycle will be due Sept. 15. The much longer full application will be due by Nov. 1. There are general criteria to participate in the program and specific criteria for each of the four categories.
The town does not have to spend all of each year's funds, but may "bank" some of the money to be used in future years. Towns may also earmark such funds for future projects.
The complete plan and the two-step application are available at the town hall and at the library, and also at the town web site (town.west-tisbury.ma.us/). For more information, consult communitypreservation.org.