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Petitioned article to address revocation of CPA

Date: 3/15/2010

March 15, 2010

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

HAMPDEN - Later this spring, voters will have the opportunity to once again make history in the town of Hampden - by revoking the Community Preservation Act (CPA) at the Annual Town Meeting.

According to Selectman John D. Flynn, Hampden was one of the first municipalities in the state to adopt the CPA in 2001. The act is statewide enabling legislation that allows cities and towns to exercise control over local planning decisions by using a property tax surcharge - a 1 percent surcharge in Hampden - to garner funds for projects in four specific areas: community housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation.

"Originally, the state had promised a dollar-for-dollar match [when it came to funding projects]," Flynn explained. "When we adopted the act, we had to sign a five-year commitment to it, even though the state match could drop from 100 percent to five percent."

Once that five-year period was up, an article was placed on the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting in 2006 to revoke the act. It was "overwhelmingly defeated," according to Flynn.

Tight fiscal times led resident Nancy Robinson to put forward a petitioned article to revoke the CPA again this year.

"I applaud the citizens for bringing it forward," Doug Boyd, chair of the town's Community Preservation Committee (CPC), said. "I think the CPA and everything else locally funded should be reviewed by the people in town."

The CPC were the ones who brought forward the warrant article in 2006 to revoke the act.

"Our primary reason for adopting the act was for the acquisition of land on Minnechaug Mountain," Boyd stated. He added most of the CPA funding in Hampden has been used for open space acquisition and historic preservation.

An article for the purchase of 40 acres near Goat Rock, off of Main Street, will also be on the warrant this spring.

"We've gotten a lot of mileage out of the CPA money," Boyd said.

While Flynn agrees that the CPA has been useful, it's the state match that will drive his decision regarding whether or not to keep the act.

"If the state is making an honest effort to hold up their end of the bargain, I say we keep [the act in place]," Flynn told Reminder Publications, "even if it's 50 percent. If it's below that, I think we should consider dropping it."

Boyd, however, pointed out that the current match is around 30 percent and that he still considers it "a favorable situation when the town invests one dollar and gets $1.30 back."

"I think [the CPA] is one of the most efficient uses of tax money. All the money stays in town and there are no administrative costs," he said. "It will be to the long-term advantage of the town to keep it."

Boyd estimated there are approximately $200,000 in the CPA account currently.

According to Stuart Saginor, Executive Director of the Community Preservation Coalition in Boston, no community has ever revoked the CPA.

"If a community were to revoke the act, the funds remaining in the town's CPA accounts are not available for any non-CPA use," Saginor explained. "Although the town would stop collecting any new CPA surcharge revenue, the CPC and all procedures for CPA would remain in place until all the existing funds were spent on CPA-eligible projects."