What it is

a funding source for cities in Massachusetts that adopt CPA legislation:

“The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a smart growth tool that helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. CPA also helps strengthen the state and local economies by expanding housing opportunities and construction jobs for the Commonwealth’s workforce, and by supporting the tourism industry through preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic and natural resources.”

What it does for cities that pass it into legislation:

helps strengthen the state and local economies by expanding housing opportunities and construction jobs for the Commonwealth’s workforce, and by supporting the tourism industry through preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic and natural resources

How it works:

Each community that adopts the Community Preservation Act is required to establish a Community Preservation Committee (CPC) to administer the program. This requirement is found in Sections 5(a) through 5(c) of the CPA statute. The CPC is created by the local legislative body – Town Meeting, City or Town Council, or Board of Aldermen – which passes a bylaw or ordinance to that effect. The bylaw or ordinance spells out the committee’s composition, length of member terms, and whether the optional “at large” positions are appointed or elected, as well as outlining the responsibilities of the new committee. The CPC can be established either at the same time that local efforts to adopt the CPA are being pursued or, more commonly, after CPA has been adopted.

As detailed in Section 5(a) of the CPA statute, the CPC must consist of at least five members. It may contain up to four additional “at large” members, for a maximum committee size of nine.

There are five required members of a CPC – one voting member from each of the following municipal committees:

Conservation Commission (created by Section 8C of Chapter 40)
Planning Board (created by Section 81a of Chapter 41)
Historical Commission (created by Section 8D of Chapter 40)
Housing Authority (created by Section 3 of Chapter 121B)
Board of Park Commissioners (created by Section 2 of Chapter 45)

If one or more of the above committees has not been established in the community, then the bylaw or ordinance can identify another municipal body with similar functions that can designate one of its members to serve on the CPC.  Alternatively, an individual in the community with like expertise or experience in that field can be tapped to serve (see Section 5(a) for the exact wording of the statute on this option). For example, if a community has not established a local Historical Commission, but does have a Historic District Commission or Historic Society, then the bylaw or ordinance establishing the CPC could specify that a member of one of these existing committees could designate one of its members to serve as the Historic Preservation representative on the CPC.

The bylaw or ordinance establishing the CPC also serves to enumerate the responsibilities of the CPC. These three responsibilities are outlined in Sections 5(b) and 5(c) of the CPA statute.

  • Develop a Community Preservation Plan
  • Review and Recommend CPA Projects
  • Keep Records and Report on the CPA Budget.

History

Signed into law by Governor Paul Cellucci and Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift on September 14, 2000, the Community Preservation Act (CPA) helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. CPA also helps strengthen the state and local economies by expanding housing opportunities and construction jobs for the Commonwealth’s workforce, and by supporting the tourism industry through preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic and natural resources.

Property taxes traditionally fund the day-to-day operating needs of safety, health, schools, roads, maintenance, and more. But until CPA was enacted, there was no steady funding source for preserving and improving a community’s character and quality of life. The Community Preservation Act gives a community the funds needed to control its future.

In addition to enabling communities to raise funds locally for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing and outdoor recreation projects, the Massachusetts CPA law creates a Statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund which provides distributions each year to communities that have adopted CPA. The Trust Fund’s revenues are derived from fees collected at the Registry of Deeds and State budget surplus funds. So far, the state has distributed $506 million from the Trust Fund, but only to those communities who vote in the CPA.

To date, 158 municipalities in the state have adopted CPA including our neighbors in Arlington, Somerville, Cambridge, Lexington, and Waltham.