With the passage of the Community Preservation Act in November, the town must now create a committee to review proposals and recommend to the Town Council which ones Watertown should pursue.
Monday night, the Council’s Rules & Ordinances subcommittee discussed a draft ordinance for the formation of the CPA Committee. The recommendation is to have a nine member committee, some of which are required by the state’s CPA law and others to be recommended for appointment by the Town Manager and approved by the Town Council.
The CPA adds a 2 percent surcharge to Watertown property taxes which will create a fund that can be used on affordable housing, historic preservation and open space.
The four required positions are:
- a member of the Planning Board chosen by the board
- a member of the Conservation Commission chosen by the commission
- a member of the Historical Commission chosen by the commission
- a member of the Housing Authority Board chose by the Board of Directors
State law requires another position to be included on a CPA committee – a member of the Parks Commission – but Watertown does not have this board.
The five other positions that would be appointed by the Town Manager and approved by the Town Council. The draft proposal also called for the chair of the committee be a town employee.
Some Councilors and residents at the subcommittee meeting said they do not like the idea that the chair be a town employee.
“If there is a town employee on the committee I don’t think we should automatically make that person the chair,” said Councilor Aaron Dushku.
Councilor Ken Woodland said he thinks a town employee could provide some valuable knowledge and perspective.
“They could say there is a pipe running under here, so we can’t do it here, for instance,” Woodland said. “They have expertise you can’t get anywhere else.”
Councilor Lisa Feltner said the town could have a person appointed to or hired to work with the committee, but that person does not have to be a member of the board. Dushku noted that the town employees advise other committees such as the Storm Water Advisory Commission but they aren’t part of that board.
Resident Maria Rose said she would like to see the non-required members of the board appointed by someone besides the Town Manager.
“Five members appointed by the Manager – that is a huge control over the commission by the Town Manager,” Rose said. “I would like to see more checks and balances.”
The committee debated whether the appointees not representing a board have a link to the three area of the CPA – affordable housing, historic preservation and open space. Some argued, however, that successful CPA committees in other towns have people with expertise in areas such as architecture, law and finance. Those people may not have a background in one of the areas covered by the CPA.
The subcommittee did not vote on the draft, and Woodland suggested taking the suggestions and running them by the Town Attorney before the subcommittee meets again. Then the subcommittee could debate each option and take a vote.
The ordinance would then go to the full Town Council to be approved.