Vote YES on 3

Community Preservation Act for Lee, Massachusetts

Community Preservation Act - Investing in Lee's Future


The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a smart growth tool that helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities.

CPA also helps strengthen the state and local economies by expanding housing opportunities and construction jobs for the Commonwealth's workforce, and by supporting the tourism industry through preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic and natural resources. 

Over a decade of work went into the creation of the CPA; it was ultimately signed into law by Governor Paul Cellucci and Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift on September 14, 2000.

CPA allows communities to create a local Community Preservation Fund for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing and outdoor recreation. Community preservation monies are raised locally through the imposition of a surcharge of not more than 3% of the tax levy against real property, and municipalities must adopt CPA by ballot referendum. To date, 175 municipalities in the state have adopted CPA.

The CPA statute also creates a statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund, administered by the Department of Revenue (DOR), which provides distributions each year to communities that have adopted CPA. These annual disbursements serve as an incentive for communities to pass CPA. Each CPA community creates a local Community Preservation Committee (CPC) upon adoption of the Act, and this five-to-nine member board makes recommendations on CPA projects to the community’s legislative body.

Property taxes traditionally fund the day-to-day operating needs of safety, health, schools, roads, maintenance, and more. But until CPA was enacted, there was no steady funding source for preserving and improving a community's character and quality of life. The Community Preservation Act gives a community the funds needed to control its future.

CPA Accomplishments to Date

  • 177 communities have adopted CPA (50%+ of the Commonwealth’s cities and towns)
  • Of the total number of adopted communities, 30 are cities and 147 are towns
  • 60% of the state population live in a CPA community
  • Just over $2.1 billion has been raised to date for community preservation funding statewide
  • Over 10,900 projects have been approved by local legislative bodies
  • More than 5,700 affordable housing units have been created with an additional 9,450 units supported
  • 29,289 acres of open space have been preserved
  • Over 5,100 appropriations have been made for historic preservation projects
  • Over 2,200 outdoor recreation projects have been initiated

Example CPA Projects in Neighboring Communities

In the last 2 years, our neighboring communities have engaged in 78 different projects using their CPA funds. Four of these projects are:

  • Pittsfield is in the middle of a multi-year restoration of the mansion at Springside Park. The building, dating back to 1856, is on the National Register of Historic Places and had fallen into major disrepair. The park is also the home of the Hebert Arboratum and is the largest public park in Pittsfield. The project should also be seen for its role in local job creation.

  • Lenox has used CPA funds to upgrade the Parson's Marsh nature preserve -- a 183 acre gem consisting of woodlands and a pond. This work was a cooperative effort by the town with the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. The funds provided for improved signage, handicapped access, and a new boardwalk and viewing platform.

  • Becket used CPA funds to build a delightful playground next to its Town Hall. The playground is often filled with children, especially in the summer months. The project was such a prized addition to the community that it was featured on the cover of last year's Annual Report.

  • Great Barrington employed a portion of its CPA funds in the recent expansion of the Bostwick Gardens senior housing complex. The CPA funds were used at the planning stage and provided important leverage for a very much larger $9-million grant from the State Housing Authority. The project was carried out by the non-profit Berkshire Housing Development Corporation.


What is the anticipated CPA sequence of events?
If the vote on Question 3 is positive, a local Committee will be formed to oversee the Act's implementation early in 2021. CPA for Lee will be activated in July 2021, and begin to accrue funds. In subsequent months, proposals will be reviewed and the Committee will make its initial project recommendations in the Spring of 2022. These projects will then be presented to the Town Meeting in May 2022. Approved projects will start work in the fiscal year beginning in July 2022. 
What is the funding mechanism?
The Act's legislation provides that contributions are made into the fund in a certain proportion to the real estate tax, with some important exceptions. The proportion must be at least one percent but no greater than three percent of the tax. The level proposed for Lee is one-and-a-half percent. However, the effective contribution is really lower than that. The first $100,000 of valuation is exempted. Moreover, any other existing real estate tax abatements or exemptions also have effect. We calculate that the average residential property in Lee will contribute 10 cents per day to the fund. In other words, we get the benefit of the Act for less than $1 per week. The Commonwealth then provides a partial match tothe contributed amount, expected to add another 25 percent in the 2022 fiscal year.
Where does the State funding come from?
The portion contributed by the State comes from part of the Transfer Tax paid whenever real property is sold. Lee has missed out on receiving its due portion over the past 20 years while the Act has been available. Its portion has gone to the other 176 communities that already participate. A recent increase in the Transfer Tax suggests that future matching payments can be sustained at approximately the twenty percent level. At its discretion, the State Legislature often designates some part of any budget surplus to further bolster the matching funds.
What kind of projects are typically funded?
The law provides that 30 percent of the distributed funds must be allocated in a specific way. At least 10 percent each must go to Historic Preservation, Open Space and Recreation, and Affordable Housing. Thus a baseline of progress toward improving these aspects is continuously guaranteed in the adopting communities. The other 70 percent of the fund can be distributed in any proportion the local Committee recommends. Or part of the fund can even be reserved for future use if worthy projects are lacking in any particular year.
What benefit do communities usually see when they participate in CPA?
The most tangible benefit is that steady progress can be seen in Quality-of-Life issues that make the community a more attractive place. The Act provides consistent funding for improvements that otherwise compete in a hit-or-miss fashion with the budget for road repairs and infrastructure necessities. Lee is in some ways at a disadvantage when compared with its neighbors. We have no museum, no theater, no concert venue, no performance space. Our neighboring CPA communities all have one or more of these. We deserve a future that puts us on equal footing as a place to live, work, and raise our families.