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.

CPA Tax Appearing on Tax Bills for First Time, Some Can Get Exemption

Watertown homeowners noticed a new line on their property tax bills, the one for “CPA Tax.” The new tax is on all bills, but some residents can qualify for an exemption on the new tax. The tax is the surcharge for the Community Preservation Act, which was passed by voters in 2016. The money raised by the tax will go into a fund earmarked for projects related to affordable housing, open space/recreation and historic preservation. The CPA adds a 2 percent tax surcharge.

Town Council and Town Manager Will Appoint People to Community Preservation Committee

After more than an hour’s debate Tuesday night, the Town Council decided who will appoint the four at-large members of the committee that will recommend how to spend the funds from the Community Preservation Act (CPA) after coming to a compromise, of sorts. The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) was created when Watertown voters approved the CPA in November 2017, and will send recommended projects to be funded by the CPA money to the Town Council for final approval. Five members of the CPC are required to be on the committee by the state statute, but communities can add other members. Watertown decided to have four at-large members, but the Rules and Ordinances subcommittee could not agree on how the four would be appointed. The group that put the CPA on the ballot, Invest in Watertown, pushed for the four seats to be appointed by the Town Council.

LETTER: Council Should Not Appoint Community Preservation Committee


In a recent letter, Patrick Fairbairn suggests an ordinance be created wherein the Town Council would interview, vet, and directly appoint the citizens who will make up the Community Preservation Act Committee while omitting some very important details and facts. To set the record straight, here are the facts and here are the issues. The draft ordinance Mr. Fairbairn referenced was created with the input and recommendations from Invest in Watertown. This group consists of the staunchest supporters and most active advocates for the CPA’S passage. This begs the question: Does prevailing on passage of the CPA Tax automatically make one an expert on the who, what, when, where, why and how our CPA money should be spent?

LETTER: Council Should Consider CPA Committee Proposal from Citizens Group

To the Editor:

With reference to the article in Watertown News dated 22 March 2017 entitled “Subcommittee debating who should be on the CPA Committee”, I recommend that all concerned attend the next meeting of the Rules and Ordinances Committee for a more thoroughgoing discussion. At the above mentioned debate only the draft text presented by the committee chairman was distributed for public review. Another draft ordinance exists (see below), prepared by core members of the group who successfully promoted adoption of the Community Preservation Act in Watertown. Its text draws on concepts and practices that have proven effective in neighbor towns, with confirmation of best practices from the statewide Community Preservation Coalition. With the benefit of more information and further discussion preparatory to the Committee’s next meeting, all those attending the session can expect to be constructive participants.