Town Meeting – Day 3: Community Preservation Act to go before the voters

by Frank Schroth

It was late in the night. The topic had received a lot of discussion and a standing vote was requested; but in the end Article 35 that would put Milton’s adoption of the Community Preservation Act on the ballot in November passed by a solid margin: 144 to 61.When the article came up Selectman Tom Hurley and a member of the Community Preservation Coalition addressed Town Meeting on the benefits and issues with the act. The Act provides funds to cities and town for specific purposes: historic preservation, open space and recreation, and affordable housing development. Participating towns place a surcharge on their residents property tax that can range for 1.5-3%. (The article called for a 1.5% surcharge in Milton). Certain residents are exempt (low-income and seniors) and all residents are exempt from the first $100,000 of their property’s tax. That money is returned along with state matching ~25%. According to the warrant a 1.5% surcharge would return about $725,000 to the town.

Hurley acknowledged it is a tax but emphasized two points: there is legislation that could increase the matching amount from 25% to 50% and that passing the article did not authorize the town to join the CPA, but put that choice before the voters. The second point became one of contention in the discussion that followed. Several town meeting members that rose in opposition to passing the article said that as elected representatives Town Meeting Members had the responsibility to make that decision and the decision should be no. Proponents argued, among other things, that a yes vote was not endorsing the act but allowing the public to decide.

The article received support from a number of boards and organizations. Marvin Gordon, a Fuller Village board member, agreed it is a tax; “but it is more of an investment than a tax.” his board voted unanimously in favor of passing the article. The Milton Planning Board also voted unanimously in favor according to Chair Emily Innes. John Kiernan, Chair of the Conservation Commission, stated that while a formal vote had not been taken, the members personally were all in support.

John Hajjar, P9, echoed the sentiments of many in opposition when he said, “We are taxed enough.When is enough, enough?” Regarding the development of affordable housing, real estate professional Gene Irwin questioned if funds were required for that. “What is affordable?, he asked. Mr. Irwin noted that there were 100 homes in Milton available for under $350K.

Chair of the Warrant Committee, Ewan Innes, closed the comments stating the Warrant Committees’ support. He said the town had been sending money into the fund (this occurs because all charges related to any property deeds go the fund regardless of whether town has adopted the act) and we were getting no benefit. It was time to get some benefit. Close to 70% of those present agreed. The CPA will be on the November ballot. You can learn more about it here.