The Town Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) voted on November 19 to recommend distribution of nearly $2.8 million in CPAC funds to 11 projects for the FY 22 funding cycle.
CPAC studies the needs, possibilities and resources of the Town regarding community preservation; makes recommendations to the Town Council annually for the acquisition, creation and preservation of open space, for the acquisition and preservation of historic resources, for the acquisition, creation and preservation of land for recreational use, for the creation, preservation and support of community housing and for rehabilitation or restoration of such open space, historic resources, land for recreational use and community housing that is acquired or created as provided in the Community Preservation Act. Cities and towns that adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA) generate monies for their local Community Preservation funds through the implementation of a local CPA property tax surcharge of up to 3 percent and through the receipt of annual matching of funds, at variable rates, from a statewide CPA Trust Fund created by the Act. Only communities that have adopted CPA are eligible to receive these matching funds each year. CPAC is responsible for advising the town on the disbursement of these funds and each year requests, receives and evaluates proposals for CPAC support from the Town and from community organizations.
The Committee’s recommendations must be voted on by the Town Council. CPAC will provide the Council with its final report on December 3 and the Council will probably vote on the recommendations in mid-December.
The largest disbursement of $1 million went to support the creation of a new space for special collections in a renovated or rebuilt Jones Library. The project was approved in the Historic Preservation category. The Special Collections are currently endangered and some holdings have been damaged due to a history of persistent leaks in the current space that have not been adequately addressed. The library had applied for $1 million from CPA funds last year but was denied because the library budget was deemed too vague and the eligibility of the proposal for CPAC funds was contested by members of Amherst CPAC. The library was encouraged to reapply during this year’s funding cycle. CPAC members Diana Stein and Andrew MacDougal expressed reservations about the request, and oblique references were made to letters from the public opposing funding it, but none of the objections were raised at the meeting. The final vote was 8-0-1 with Sam McLeod abstaining, saying that CPAC ought to wait until the Town approved the library project before granting funding.
Other projects receiving support follow.
Amherst Affordable Housing Trust, affordable housing, $800,000 (funded as part of the FY 21 CPAC budget)
Amherst Community Connections, affordable housing, $226,701
Goodwin Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church restoration, $21,412
North Amherst Library, wall repair, $40,000
Town Hall, front and side steps renovation, $265,000
Town Hall and Monson Library roof restorations, $83,500
North Common project, $250,000
North Common project, $250,000
Groff Park, lower pavillion replacement, $45,000
Mill River Pool, repair, $65,000
CPAC did not consider any applications for open space projects.
One of the projects under consideration, the Mill River Historic Trail Project proposed by the District One Neighborhood Association (DONA), was not put to a vote because it was deemed ineligible for CPAC funding by the State Community Preservation Coalition, which makes determinations of eligibility.. Among the reasons offered for this determination were: CPA does not recognize community archaeology (a substantial component of the proposal) as supported historic preservation work; the project did not involve an acquired, preserved, or rehabilitated historic resource and CPA does not support the purchase of signage which was also part of the proposal. (Look here for eligibility criteria)
Amherst CPAC decided not to vote on this project but to continue to discuss it at its December 3 meeting to determine whether to reject it outright, to encourage DONA to get a legal opinion on the Coalition’s determination, to determine whether it might be eligible under the Coalition’s recreation guidelines, or to encourage DONA to revise and resubmit it for the next round of funding. CPAC member Ana Devlin Gauthier asked the CPA Committee to consider what they can do to support the community, especially new applicants, in writing their proposals. Chair Sarah Marshall noted that many, if not most, proposals for CPA funds come from the Town, which has considerable experience with the process. New applicants might indeed be at a disadvantage and CPAC might be able to provide some coaching. Robin Fordham noted that applicants can return with a better proposal.
A proposal to repair the roof at the North Amherst School building was deferred to the FY23 funding cycle.