| Angelica J. Core
EASTHAMPTON – Nearly 20 years ago the city of Easthampton adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA).
Daniel Rist, chairman of the city’s CPA Committee, told Reminder Publishing that the CPA allows for any community to opt into the program by a vote of the public. Easthampton residents approved an additional annual assessment of 3 percent of their property tax value, which then goes into the CPA fund for each community for projects addressing open space, affordable housing, and historical preservation and recreation.
Rist shared that the CPA money cannot be used for general fund expenses such as paving roads or building a new building.
That fund is matched by the state. Rist said the state used to match 100 percent, but that has been reduced. He explained that the more communities that join, the less money the state has to match.
Assistant Planner Jamie Webb shared that the match got as low as 30 percent. Last year, the state passed a new law to address the decreasing matches. In 2020 they increased the number of funds available.
“The way that the CPA match through the state is funded is primarily through fees collected at the register of deeds whenever a property is bought or sold. So they increased the fees that were being collected at the registry and that allowed CPA communities to get higher matches,” Webb said.
She continued to say that the 2020 and 2021 match has gone back up to 62 percent.
Rist shared the CPA has funded significant projects for the city. He said without the funding, they would not have the Rail Trail and the Nashawannuck Pond Boardwalk. More recently, the private owners of Mt. Tom North Trail Park off of East Street sold that portion to the city so it can be preserved and turned into a rail park. Rist said the trail will be accessible to everyone.
Communities that have CPA leverage grants that are available. Rist gave an example of the Mt. Tom North Trail Park, which was funded in part by the CPA but also funded with a park grant.
The CPA funding has also helped with adding grass to the football field and protected space from development to protect their aquifer.
An upcoming project that the CPA funding will help with is the renovations to Old Town Hall. The second floor of Old Town Hall is expected to receive $6.9 million worth of renovations in 2023. CPA has committed to donating $3 million. CitySpace, a nonprofit organization that manages the first floor of the building, is restoring the space into accessible performing arts and community space.
CitySpace is also adding an elevator, restrooms, a sprinkler system, storage space, and a green room. According to the CitySpace website, they are renovating the lobby, adding a new box office, removing asbestos, replicating the historic moldings, and updating the light, sound, and projection equipment.
Rist shared that he believes there is no downside to the renovation of Old Town Hall, he said it will be a huge economic boom for the city and its restaurants.
The CPA has also donated $15,000 to the city’s Housing Production Plan (HPP) that will help create more affordable housing in the city.
Webb added that they have also done work with the housing authority to do improvements to their buildings and properties. There was a project on East Street in 2008 and that created two houses built by Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, and the CPA gave funding towards the Parsons Village Project as well as the Cottage Square Apartments.
“Just know that without the CPA, our quality of life projects like the boardwalk, the rail trail, they would not happen. I have been in the City Council for 26 years, I have been the chair of the Finance Committee, I know how the money is used. Our general fund can rarely afford these projects,” Rist said.
Every month there is a deadline for organizations to apply for CPA funds. The application can be found online at on the Community Preservation Act Committee page on the city’s website.
Three applications must be submitted – one digital version and two original hard copies – no later than two weeks before the next meeting.
Digital copies can be emailed to Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org and residents can mail or bring their two hard copies to Webb at Easthampton Planning Department at 50 Payson Ave.
If there are applications and things that the committee needs to discuss, they meet every third Thursday of the month.
Once the committee approves the application, it is then sent to the City Council and Mayor Nicole LaChapelle for approval.
The following dates are the grant application submittal deadlines for this year: March 4, April 1, May 6, June 3, July 1, Aug. 5, Sept. 2, Oct. 7, Nov. 4, Dec. 2, and Jan. 6, 2022.
Webb explained that the CPA has been adopted by 106 municipalities in the state and while the state sets the broad expectations of how this program should work, each city or town does things differently.
Webb shared that in places that have a City Council that meets regularly and has a larger population, it is much easier to get a supplemental appropriation to the council, who votes on whether or not it is approved.
“For towns that do town meetings, you are going to see that they may have one or two application periods per year because any appropriation would need to be approved by the majority of voters at town meetings,” Webb said.
Those who would like to apply to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program should note that this process is different.
Webb said the Community Action Pioneer Valley is managing the program and will be conducting application intake. There is no deadline to apply but funds are first-come, first-served. More information is at: https://easthamptonma.gov/component/fileman/?view=file&routed=1&name=Rental%20Assistance%20Marketing%20Flyer%200204.pdf&container=fileman-attachments
and here, https://www.communityaction.us/community-resources-advocacy.