I was at the Community Preservation Commission, checking out what projects have been submitted since the deadline of February 17th. (I’ll have the details posted later)
This year, there were 14 projects submitted: four for housing, four for recreation, one for open space and five for historic. Overall, a well-balanced field covering the areas of the CPA: affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. I might add that ‘recreation’ is an ethereal field hovering between open space and historic preservation. CPA must assign a minimum of 10% into the three main fields: affordable housing, historic preservation and open space.
Over the years, a reserve fund has been established for both affordable housing and open space because often the clock is ticking. In affordable housing, there are so many conditions and the clock is ticking on for developers that it is important to keep a reserve in case quick action is needed in an emergency. Open space is often dealing with agricultural land that receives a special reduced tax rate as long as it is being farmed. Because of this, the town or city has a right to buy the land in 120 days before it is often irretrievably destroyed for housing or industrial uses. The reserve fund is ready in case of such time restraints.
But there is no reserve fund for any kind of emergency under historic preservation.
Bill Harris with much support from the preservation groups in town needed up front money for the preservation of the wharf timber. CPA money tends to plod along at a slow rate, with money eventually being provided (if approved after much application review) by October.
The CPC had to do some tricky accounting maneuvering to get the money available but it was able to happily assist.
How much easier it would be if, unlike the huge demand on funds that AF and OS require, a small reserve was dedicated for just such a need. Of course, the City Council would have to get involved to make the designation but it certainly makes sense.
I suggest the CPC make just such a reserve – it makes sense in an historically-rich community like Newburyport!