Q&A: Uses of CPA Funds

Questions related to the purposes served by Community Preservation Act funds

Why do we need CPA to pay for major projects, in general?
Why do we need CPA to pay for major historic preservation projects?
Why do we need CPA to pay for major projects for open spaces?
Do we need CPA to pay for major projects for outdoor recreation facilities?
Do we have to use CPA to pay for more affordable housing?
Why can’t we use CPA to help pay for urgent needs like the schools?
Would approval of CPA help or hurt the chances for passing an override?

Why do we need CPA to pay for major projects, in general?

Under the Community Preservation Act, a town can set aside money to be used exclusively on projects for historic preservation, open spaces (including outdoor recreation facilities), or community housing. The same projects could be submitted through the normal budget process, but they usually are not because they tend to be orphans, with no one in town government to develop them or champion them. By creating a dedicated fund, the CPA makes it possible for Norwood to pay for important projects that would otherwise never even be considered.

See a list of potential CPA funded projects.

FundAllocation
*Up to 5% of funds can be allocated for administrative expenses.
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Why do we need CPA to pay for major historic preservation projects?

Most of the historic buildings in Norwood are in private hands and thus, not eligible to receive public funds through normal town budgeting. The Historical Commission has an annual budget in the range of $1,000 to $3,000 in recent years – not enough to pay for so much as one major project, even if it were stretched out over multiple years.

We have finally completed some of the much-needed repairs to Town Hall, one of two Norwood buildings on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. But Town Hall qualified primarily as the town’s principal office building, not as an historic site. CPA could be used to fund much-needed work on any of Norwood’s major historic sites – publicly or privately owned – and also planned additional renovations at Town Hall.

Norwood could also develop plans for its own historic district, as neighboring towns like Dedham, Sharon and Canton already have done. Such a district could showcase Norwood and attract architecture buffs and amateur historians from all over our region. Visitors could also cap off a tour of Norwood’s many historic homes with a sampling of our shops, restaurants and other offerings, helping the local economy.
Massachusetts Historical Commission: Creating a historical district.

Town Hall with scaffolding
Under the CPA, one of the five to nine seats on the Community Preservation Committee must be a representative from the Historical Commission.
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Why do we need CPA to pay for major projects for open spaces?

The Conservation Commission is responsible for protecting and preserving Norwood’s wetlands and other open space conservation land. Its work is essential to protecting wildlife habitats and rare species of plants.

The Conservation Commission is also the agency that oversees Norwood’s parks. A park is an open space, owned by the town and protected from future development – but without the facilities for playgrounds and sports found in fields. A park has walking, hiking, and bicycling trails for nature lovers and fitness fans. Norwood parks have boat launches and plans for more. They also have a butterfly garden, places for families to picnic, and excellent locations for observing birds, otters, deer and other wildlife.

The Commission’s budget is modest, however. In FY 2017, Norwood appropriated $115,120 for the Commission:

$10,000 for future land purchases
$46,000 for maintenance, with nearly half earmarked for Ellis Pond
$42,065 for the town’s conservation agent and a consultant
$17,055 for meeting and administrative costs, primarily stenography services

The maintenance budget is barely enough to maintain the Ellis Pond dam, which is essential, because a dam failure would flood South Norwood. The CPA would allow funding of park projects, such as removal of invasive aquatic plants in Ellis Pond and development of a network of walking trails.

The CPA could also help Norwood purchase additional wetlands that need protection.

Under the CPA, one of the five to nine seats on the Community Preservation Committee must be a representative from the Conservation Commission. A second seat will be provided to the Board of Selectmen in their role as the town’s park commission.

Ellis Pond SignFrozen Ellis Pond


Norwood Open Space and Recreation Plan 2010-2017

Videos of Norwood parks:
Ellis Pond
Endean Park
Shattuck Park
Hawes Brook and Pond
Hennessey Field
William Keswick Park/Taphole Brook
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Do we need CPA to pay for major projects for outdoor recreation facilities?

There are certainly outdoor recreation facility projects that would qualify for CPA funding, but recreation facilities are already championed by a department with a significant budget. They are not orphan projects in the way that projects in other CPA areas are.

Judging from past experience, we can expect the Recreation Department’s CPA proposals to be solid and well thought-out. They will be competing with worthy projects in historic preservation and open spaces that may be more urgent because they have been so long delayed due to lack of funding.

Under the CPA, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) will review proposals and make recommendations to Town Meeting. The CPC will have representation from all CPC areas, as does Town Meeting. The CPA process is designed to produce sound, balanced decisions.
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Do we have to use CPA to pay for more affordable housing?

The CPA requires that 10% of annual expenditures go to “community housing”, just as 10% must go to historic preservation and 10% to open spaces (including outdoor recreation facilities). (The other 70% can be spent on any of the CPA areas.) But Norwood does not have to buy or build any new housing units in order to meet the CPA requirements with regard to affordable housing. Whatever CPA funds are expended can be used to make sure we don’t lose any of the affordable housing we already have.

Some of our existing affordable housing consists of deed-restricted houses – houses that can only be sold to low- or moderate-income people or families. Currently, 33 deed restrictions will expire in the future, including 15 due to expire in the next six years. Some CPA funding could be used to help extend these deed restrictions before they expire.

Under the CPA, one of the five to nine seats on the Community Preservation Committee must be a representative from the Norwood Housing Authority.
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Why can’t we use CPA to help pay for urgent needs like the schools?

The Community Preservation Act only allows funding for historic preservation, open space (including outdoor recreation facilities), and community housing. The funding needs of traditional town departments like the schools must be addressed by other funding sources.
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Would approval of CPA help or hurt the chances for passing an override?

There is no way to answer this question, because it’s impossible to predict voting behavior with confidence. But many people say their position on CPA is bound up with this question. It may be useful to consider how people will make their decisions.

People who are opposed to any tax increase for any reason will oppose both CPA and an override. Approving either one will not change their opinion on the other.

People who support a tax increase when they think the benefits are worth the cost will assess CPA and any proposed override on their own individual merits. Their decision on one will not influence their decision on the other.

Some people might hope – or fear – that CPA approval will “soften up” resistance to an override. But this is how they imagine other people – not they themselves – would react. Ask yourself if you personally know anyone who thinks this way.

Finally, some people might hope – or fear – that other people will not be willing to approve both CPA and an override because the combined tax increase will seem like too much – even though either proposal alone would seem affordable. But the kind of override being discussed – enough to raise around $2 million – would cost four times as much as CPA. So if an override looks too expensive with CPA, it would probably look too expensive without CPA, as well.

No matter how you approach these kinds of decisions, it is very unlikely that your support for – or opposition to – an override will be affected by your prior decision to support or oppose CPA.
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