First Two Community Preservation Projects Approved; Will Rehabilitate Park, Restore Historic Paintings

Designs for the improvements to Irving Park. The project was recommended by Community Preservation Committee for approval from the City Council, which did so on June 21. A park in Watertown will get a face lift and paintings in City Hall that are showing their age will be refurbished in the first two projects in Watertown approved to use money from the Community Preservation Act funds. On Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved the two projects recommended by the Community Preservation Committee. Community Preservation Committee Chair Mark Kraczkiewicz thanked the groups that brought forward the projects.

Watertown’s Hidden Wetlands Could be Possible Community Preservation Projects

Walker’s Pond, on the Westside of Watertown, is one of the town’s hidden wetlands and a possible place for the Community Preservation Funds to be spent. With “water” such a prominent part of the name of the town, one might expect it to be flush with wetlands. The Charles River, of course, is Watertown’s most significant body of water, but there are several others that are not as visible. Some can be seen from roadways around town, if you know where to look, others are tucked into the woods, and a number are surrounded by graves. Leo Martin, chair of the Town Conservation Commission recently took Watertown News on a tour of the town’s wetlands.

Community Preservation Committee Wants to Hear from Public

The following information was provided by the Community Preservation Committee:

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) in Watertown raises funds through a 2% percent surcharge on local property taxes and a variable annual distribution from the MA Community Preservation Trust Fund. There are four eligible project funding categories: community housing; open space; outdoor recreation; and historic preservation. It is mandated that 10% of funds generated annually must be designated to each category. Please note funding for open space and recreation is a combined category. Up to 5% may be used for administration and the remaining 65% may be allocated among the project categories.

Community Preservation Committee Looks to Get Process Rolling

The committee chosen to oversee the money raised by the Community Preservation Act in Watertown will be hiring a consultant and a part-time coordinator to educate the public and help figure out how the money will be distributed. Watertown voters approved the CPA in November 2016, and the property tax surcharge brings in about $2 million a year, plus the state will chip in matching funds (19 percent in Fiscal Year 2019). The money can be used on a variety projects, but they must relate to at least one of three areas: affordable housing, open space/recreation or historic preservation. At least 10 percent of the funds must be spent on, or saved in a fund for, each of the three areas. Elodia Thomas, chair of the Community Preservation Committee, said that she hopes that residents will become excited about the possibilities for the Community Preservation Act funds.

Community Preservation Committee Appointees Announced, Must Get Council’s Approval

Watertown Town Hall

The Community Preservation Committee will soon have all of its members, and be ready to start overseeing how to spend the funds collected from the Community Preservation Act. 

Watertown voters approved the CPA in November 2016. The money raised from the 2 percent property tax surcharge can be spent on three areas: affordable housing, open space/recreation, and historic preservation. The Community Preservation Committee will make recommendations for how the money will be spent, and the plan must be approved by the Town Council. In June 2018, the Town Council approved an ordinance which spells out how the Community Preservation Committee members will be appointed. The nine-member Committee will be made up of five spots required by the State CPA statute to be on the board, and four members appointed by the Town Manager.  

On Tuesday night, Town Manager Michael Driscoll announced the four people he seeks to appoint to the Community Preservation Committee.

Council Changes Direction on Community Preservation Committee, Town Manager will Make Appointments

Tuesday night, after a long and contentious debate, a majority of the Town Council voted to approve a compromise that would give the Town Manager power to appoint member of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) with those selected needing to be confirmed by the Council. The decision went away from the subcommittee recommendation to have members appointed by the Council. The approved ordinance, which was brought forward by Town Council President Mark Sideris, also provides specific direction to the Town Manager for what qualities to look for in the appointees. Since the Community Preservation Act (CPA) passed in 2016, the focus has been on how to appoint the four at-large members of the Committee, which is charged to come up with ideas and recommendations for how to use funds from the tax surcharge. The money can be spent on affordable housing, open space and recreation, and historic preservation.

Some Major Changes in Final Draft of Community Preservation Ordinance, but it Keeps the Spirit

A Town Council subcommittee approved the final draft for the rules on establishing the committee that will oversee the money brought in by the Community Preservation Act. The final draft eliminated some major portions of the previous version, but kept the main priorities. Tuesday night, the Council’s Rules and Ordinances Committee voted to send the draft to the full Town Council, which includes the changed ordinance and the separate policy for appointing the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) members who are selected by the Town Council. Each year the CPC will send to the Council a list of projects to be funded by the CPA funds. The state’s CPA statute allows the money, which comes from a 2 percent property tax surcharge, to be spent on affordable housing, open space or historical preservation.