Community Preservation Act slated for November ballot

On August 29, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By Jim Clark

A vote to have the adoption of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) placed on the November 6, 2012 ballot passed without objection at the August 16 Special Meeting of the Board of Aldermen.

According to the state, the CPA allows communities to create a local Community Preservation Fund to raise money through a surcharge of up to 3% of the real estate tax levy on real property for open space protection, historic preservation and the provision of affordable housing. The act also creates a significant state matching fund, which serves as an incentive to communities to pass the CPA.

The law, which was put into practice 12 years ago, has gone through changes over the years, and recently received a significant going-over by the state legislature, in hopes that more cities would adopt it.

The modifications to the law tend to make more CPA revenues available for recreational projects, which was a big selling point for Somerville officials.

Speaking in favor of the ballot measure, Mayor Curtatone said, “Somerville has been for many years now a leader in sustainability and preservation, in understanding the value of affordable housing and expanding our reach in creating the most dynamic and open recreation spaces.” The mayor went on to point out that “we have so much more as a community that we desire to achieve and need to accomplish if we’re going to reach the vision we see for our future.”

Curtatone further said that because of the recent modifications to the CPA, its adoption by Somerville looks more attractive than ever, particularly because monies can now be utilized for renovations as well as for new developments.

Voters will have their say on the matter on November 6.


9 Responses to “Community Preservation Act slated for November ballot”

  1. A Moore says:

    Just another way to jack up our taxes but with our permission. I’ll pass on this one. I am sure it will go through anyway. City already has way too many taxes, fees and fines. Enough already.

  2. Jonah Petri says:

    Two points about this:
    1) This is a great idea for Somerville. It guarantees a pool of money that go to investment-type projects (buying and improving open space, preserving local historical features, affordable housing projects). The city has no choice but to spend it on those priorities, and can’t take the money for any other purpose (not for salaries, e.g.).
    2) There’s a huge pool of state money which gets divided every year amongst those communities which adopt the CPA. This pool is funded by a fee on filing real estate documents, so anyone anywhere buying real estate is funding this pool, including those in Somerville. If you’re not buying real estate, it costs you nothing. So, for those who are in Somerville to stay, the money from the State really is free money!

    We should totally take advantage of this. It’s a tiny amount of money to pay, but we get a lot in return. has a lot of good details.

  3. j. connelly says:

    I dont get it. Some people say it is great…Other people say it adds to your taxes. So it sounds like double/triple jeopardy. It adds costs in your state taxes, property taxes,and filing fees. If this is so…then it is not “free money” With the GLX project the amount of “TAX EXEMPT” land in the city will be pushing 55% – 60% of the total amount of land (4 Square Miles) in this city. What is left has little room for any new open space or affordable housing projects or any new development for that matter.

  4. Jonah Petri says:

    @ j. connelly:
    There’s no increase in anyone’s state taxes due to this. It’s a tiny surcharge (average less than $35/year) to your property tax, and if you’re a senior or low income, you’re exempt. The rest of us can afford it, no problem, especially for the great benefits it will bring to the city.

    Tax exempt land, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with the CPA at all… am I wrong?

  5. Meme says:

    Ah, good, just a ‘tiny surchage’. Jonah, you willing to pay mine? Its just tiny.

  6. philb says:


    Subsidezed housing is not an investment, it is welfare spending that costs the community in terms of lower tax base, increased crime, lost economic improvements etc.

    Historic preservation. Meh. Other than preserving the Union Square monument, I can’t think of much worthwhile in our city. But I could be convinced.

    I’d vote to increase my taxes 25% if I knew the entire amount was going to parks. With this bill, 80% of the cost could go to subsidized housing and only 10% could end up going to parks that actually benefit the whole community.

    So I’m undecided. Hard to stomach voting for a permanent tax increase when I don’t know how the money will be spent.

  7. Ray Spitzer says:

    $35 here, $35 there, you end up with one grand pretty fast. But did I understand correctly that Jonah Petri agreed to pay the “tiny” tax for all Villens?

  8. j. connelly says:

    Yes your wrong…If the state gives funding then it comes from the taxes the state receives, income tax, sales tax, etc. which it uses for its funding programs.

    If you read up on it whether it be municipal or state, the leaders are constantly “transfering” money from one account to another to bail that particular account [fund] out. They do not manage the money properly and never have.

    When the city’s tax base is reduced due to tax exempt land the burden of the shortfall falls upon the taxpayers/rentees. As all of those tax exempt properties still receive city services (Fire-Police-EMS-DPW) at taxpayers expense. Everytime Tufts purchases a home in your neighborhood or a group or halfway house opens in your neighborhood. They are tax exempt. It is grossly unfair to have any city’s tax base reduced by tax exempt properties like in Somerville, 50% and with the GLX property aquisitions making the total city tax exempt property going higher towards 60%.

    Alderman Trane stepped in when the VNA was building up at Capen Court and got an agreement (like Cambridge did with Harvard & MIT)
    wheras VNA does ‘PILOT’ = Payment In Lieu Of Taxes, which helps bring money into the city for that property.

    No city, especially Somerville which is 4 square miles, should have 60% of its total land be Tax Exempt. The city has reduced many personnel over the years starting with Prop 2.5 and other cuts since then.

    Thus it cannot provide all the services needed as in the past. The workers put a great effort but somethings take way longer to get done. Now when a storm hits they have to augment the tree crews with private contractors, an added cost. Now the city is going to take over the utility poles…you know some contractor is going to be donating to a campaign fund to get that contract & the cost burden will end up on the taxpayers.

    So NO! the CPA is not good, it just allows city officials to continue to mismange funds at our expense.

  9. Jonah Petri says:


    I agree with you strongly about the parks angle, and from what I’ve seen in the comments on this issue here and elsewhere on the web, there’s a pretty strong consensus that open space is the #1 thing the community wants. The mayor has come out strongly in favor of spending the funds for parks as well:

    “We are one of the most densely populated cities in New England, so the opportunity to create new open space doesn’t really exist,” Curtatone said. “What’s attractive about the amendments are that they now allow us to use the Community Preservation Act to renovate parks and open space. We have an aggressive recreation plan in the city and this will greatly enhance those efforts.”

    (from the article on this issue)

    I also agree that the Prospect Hill monument is a great place to renovate, and would generally be a great improvement for the city to have it be a functional site. I think that’s the obvious target for historic preservation, and you could probably spend quite a few years of a portion of the CPA money there.

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