By Director of Land Protection Christa Collins
When I first started working in land protection, the only way communities could undertake large land acquisitions was through issuing bonds and passing Proposition 2 1/2 overrides. In 2000, the state legislature passed the Community Preservation Act (CPA), enabling legislation that allowed local governments to impose a property tax surcharge of up to 3% to be set aside in a fund for open space protection, historic preservation, and affordable housing. Looking back now, it's hard to imagine how any meaningful land protection was done prior to the establishment of the CPA.
Most of the communities in SVT"s service area have adopted the CPA. This year, Sudbury, Concord, and Carlisle will be voting on land acquisitions using CPA funds. Last year Upton, Ashland, and Northborough all approved CPA land acquisitions. And at Wayland's Town Meeting on April 9th of this year, voters overwhelmingly rejected a citizen's petition that would have significantly reduced the surcharge and hampered the Town's ability to negotiate a deal on its top priority for land protection. Over and over again, we see evidence that residents value the CPA for the flexibility it provides communities in shaping their futures. Not only does it allow communities to plan for large acquisitions, but it leverages additional state funds to do so, in a match that is funded through fees generated at the Registries of Deeds.
Thought it works well in its current form for many communities, there may be changes in store for the CPA. In April the Massachusetts House passed an amendment to the CPA that would add $25 million each year to the state match from the budget surplus. As revenues at the Registries have declined in recent years, and as more communities have adopted the CPA, the match has declined, so this proposal will allow local funds to be stretched further. The amendment would also make changes to the way CPA funds can be used for recreation projects. The Senate will consider the amendment beginning in mid-May.