Skip Navigation
This table is used for column layout.
Town of Lenox, MA

Town Seal

Subscribe to News
Send Us Comments
Ask the Selectmen

Community Preservation Committee Minutes 03/09/2015

Lenox Community Preservation Committee
March 9, 2015

In Attendance: Frederick Keator (Chair),  Al Harper (At Large), Olga Weiss (LHS), Joe Strauch (Conservation Commission), Catherine May (Housing Authority), Gene Chague (At Large), Tony Patella (Community Center ), Ed Lane (BoS), Gwen Miller (Town Planner), Sean Vandeusen (DPW Super), Christopher Ketchen (Town Manager),  Betsy Strauch (guest), Gig Darey (resident), Molly Morse (resident),) Clarence Fanto (Berkshire Eagle)
The Community Preservation Committee met on Monday, March 9 to complete their discussion of project applications prior to the March 16 public hearing.
The March 2 meeting minutes were approved with amendments. The February 23 meeting minutes were approved with amendments.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Keator indicated that there was no planned discussion of the Undermountain Farm Conservation Project.
The Committee discussed the following projects:         
Library Step Restoration
Sean Vandeusen, the DPW Superintendent and Christopher Ketchen, Town Manager, were present to further describe the library steps project and to answer questions. Mr. Ketchen noted that the steps in current condition dip in the middle and are not safe. He also noted that the replacement would be done with local marble and in such a way to prevent the current problem from happening again. He also noted that DPW and the company who provided the cost estimate used old pictures of the library steps to make sure the new steps will be historically accurate, and they had filed for a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic District Commission. The hearing is scheduled for March 17.
Mr. Vandeusen noted that the company who provided the cost estimate works frequently with this kind of project, and that the railings would not be attached to the steps as they are now but to the ground. He also noted that a cement polymer blend would be used, and that this material weathers better. Mr. Chague asked Mr. Vandeusen if there was any way to reuse the existing steps, like flipping them and using the other side. Mr. Vandeusen said they could not re-use them, but they would certainly salvage them and use them for something. Mr. Harper asked how the price estimate was formulated. Mr. Vandeusen reiterated that a local company with great experience in this line of work had developed the estimate. Mr. Keator asked if the proposed work would prevent the issue from happening again. Mr. Vandeusen reiterated that it would, especially because the railings would not be attached to the building or steps. Mr. Harper asked when this would be finished; Mr. Vandeusen said it would take two weeks, and that they could be flexible so as to avoid disrupting high tourist season and completing the project after Apple Squeeze. Mr. Lane said that the cost was pretty reasonable for that type of project. Mr. Vandeusen said there would be performance bonds so the town would get money back if the project did not go well.
Academy Building Improvements
Mr. Ketchen indicated that he planned to withdraw the Academy Building application and fund the repairs with money from the General Fund.
Walker House
The Committee discussed information provided by Building Inspector Don Fitzgerald. Ms. Miller has spoken with him to discuss the condition of Walker House and what type of projects could be completed with $25,000. It was indicated that for $25,000, stabilization efforts could be made, but repairs and replacement of critical building components such as the roof and porch would be very expensive. Ms. Miller relayed that the garage removal would be $7,000, and to repair the roof and trim would be $25,000, but a total replacement would be $40,000. Mr. Fitzgerald had also indicated that it would not be safe to merely put jacks on the porch. Ms. Weis also reported that the Walker House had been listed with McLane Realty as a private residence for $590,000. She said the mortgage is $290,000, and that it is assessed at $767.3000. Ms. May asked if that includes the home equity loan or back taxes. Mr. Strauch pointed out that you can look mortgage agreements up on the Registry of Deeds website. Ms. Weiss said she would ask McLane about the remaining indebtedness on the house. Mr. Delasco stated that one struggle he has with the proposal is that it has been difficult to get straight answers about the project and this would be using public funds on a private home after years of deferred maintenance. Ms. Weiss explained that this isn’t just a case of deferred maintenance, but of real hardship. She noted it had become an emergency situation around Christmas, when she found that a historic building could be in danger of falling down. She said that the Walker House is an iconic, historic property and that CPC could fund it as historic preservation, or that CPC funds could stabilize the building as it waits for an owner who can put time and money into renovating it. She thought that perhaps the CPC could have the funds returned in a five year window. Mr. Harper suggested that the historic preservation of Walker House is the same as historic preservation of other buildings such as Ventfort Hall or the Mount, as historic preservation is a worthy effort no matter the ownership. He questioned whether the real issue is if they would be allocating funds with no guaranteed benefit or return. Ms. May referred to the Candlelight Inn, who had a new owner purchase and renovate it, and suggested that the town wait and see if something similar, happens to the Walker House. Ms. Weiss said that could take too long for the building’s condition. Mr. Lane said he really appreciated the time and care Ms. Weiss had put into this, but that he thinks if the building has stood through this winter, it will stay standing through the summer. Mr. Delasco asked if Mr. Fitzgerald has considered the eminence of the house falling in; Ms. Miller indicated that hadn’t been discussed. Mr. Strauch said that Lenox would have to put a lien on it, and Mr. Keator said that would be another “put” on the sale of the house. He said he feels terrible for the owners’ situation, but that he has a philosophical issue with using public funds for a private home. He asked Ms. Weiss if, theoretically, if there’s anything that HDC or the Historical Commission can do to prevent this from happening to other historic homes. Ms. Weiss stated that rescuing buildings is not the role of HDC, but that falls into the bailiwick of the Historical Commission. She said that the Historical Commission is pursuing two things, and that inevitably, some of these buildings requiring assistance will be private.
St. Martin’s Hall Restoration Phase 1
Mr. Keator steered the conversation to Shakespeare and Company’s proposal. He noted remaining uncertainty about what exactly they could accomplish with $40,000. Mr. Delasco said they would secure the building’s envelope. Mr. Lane said that the drainage issues alone would be very expensive. Mr. Harper stated that he conceptually did not see the clear difference between the historic properties such as St. Martin’s, Ventfort Hall or Walker House: would the $40,000 accomplish something or would it be throwing resources away? Mr. Keator noted that the Committee would again have funds for administration, and that perhaps some of these funds could be partially used to conduct a historic resource inventory and master plan as Mr. Harper had previously mentioned. Ms. May pointed out that Shakespeare and Company is a non-profit organization as compared to Walker House, which is privately owned. Mr. Lane pointed out that Shakespeare and Company adds economic benefit to Lenox as well. Mr. Harper said they are all private properties. Ms. May suggested that one theoretical approach to selecting historic preservation projects to fund would be to only fund town owned properties. Mr. Harper suggested that is one approach to take. Mr. Keator stated that he as always seen CPA as funding the last mile versus the initial 5%. Ms. May pointed out that there is never a guarantee when somebody suggested the rapid administrative turnover at Shakespeare and Company could make their progress slower. She pointed out that the group has funded the Mount, but with their debt challenges, there is no guarantee that it will always be the Mount as we know it today. Mr. Strauch said that they have witnessed the Church on the Hill do a lot of work over the years.
Remaining Debt Service
Mr. Harper asked Ms. Miller to provide information regarding ongoing debt payments and encumbrances on CPA funds. Ms. Miller provided the information attached. This was shared at the meeting. See Attachment “A”.  The information indicates that the Affordable Housing Trust currently has a balance of $122,502.66, and that in the past; they have received $25,000 from CPA, and $120,000 to begin the trust in 2010.
Funds Available
Mr. Keator discussed the balance sheet he provided at a meeting in December. See Attachment “B”. This information indicates that as of December 31, 2014, there was $998,159.05 available in CPA funds. The projected cash available for FY16 projects is $1,159,475.05.
Past Allocations
Mr. Keator read a list of past projects and allocations he procured from the Community Preservation website. See Attachment “C. Note that $895,000 has been spent on Affordable Housing category projects; $2,220,600on Historic Preservation category projects; $90,000 on Open Space category projects and $83,000 on Recreation category projects.
Use of CPA Funds for a Historic Trust Fund
Mr. Keator read an e-mail from Stuart Saginor at the Community Preservation Coalition, which indicated that it would not be an allowable allocation for CPC to direct historic preservations to a historic trust. See Attachment “D”.

The meeting adjourned at 8:20.

1)~ For the purchase of the library:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ a)~ What year? 2008
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ b)~ How much was~ bonded? $1,500,000
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ c) The interest rate? Variable, average 3.83%
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ d)~ The annual payment? Varies, FY 16 $134,765
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ e) ~The current balance of the loan? The balance at 06/30/15 will be $1,000,000
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ f)~ the maturity date? 07/15/23 (FY 24)
2)~ For the purchase of Sawmill Brook
a)~ What year? 2011
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ b)~ How much was~bonded? $600,000
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ c) The interest rate? 1.75%
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ d)~ The annual payment? Varies, FY 16 $124,200
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ e) ~The current balance of the loan? The balance at 06/30/15 will be $240,000
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ f)~ the maturity date? 09/10/16 (FY 17)
~3)~ For the Affordable Housing Trust
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ a)~ What years have been funded? See table below.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ b) The amount funded each year? See table below.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ c)~ The current holding of the Trust- $122,502.66; see table below.

Affordable Housing Trust
FY 2011
FY 2012
FY 2013
FY 2014
FY 2015
Beginning Balance
$                -   
$                   -   
Article 12 05/06/10 Town Meeting
Transfer In from CPA Funds
Interest Income
Affordable Housing Trust Mortgages
Grantee 1
Grantee 2
Grantee 3
Ending Balance


Balances for Projects
    Library Debt Service
General Unreserved
   Sawmill Brook Debt Service
Community Housing
   Library Exterior Restoration
Historic Resources
    Church On the Hill—Cemetery    Restoration
Historic Resources
   Open Space & Recreation Plan
Open Space
   Village Improvement Committee
Historic Resources
   Village Improvement Committee
General Unreserved
   Edith Wharton
Historic Resources
   Open Space Reserve 2015
General Unreserved
   Church On the Hill Phase II 2015
General Unreserved
   Lenox Fire Company 2015
Historic Resources
   Community Center Town Beach 2015
Open Space
   Roche Reading Park
General Unreserved
Total Balance for Projects
Unreserved—Open Space
Unreserved—Historical Resources
Unreserved—Community Housing
Less Committed
Total available as of 12-31-14
**1st Half 2015 (collected) receipts
Projected cash available for FY16 Projects


“CPA projects are only allowed if they fall in one of the proper "boxes" on the CPA allowable uses chart.~ See the chart on our website:
In the historic category, you must be "acquiring, preserving or rehabilitating" a specific historic resource.~ An historic resource is defined as:
"Historic resources", a building, structure, vessel real property, document or artifact that is listed on the state register of historic places or has been determined by the local historic preservation commission to be significant in the history, archeology, architecture or culture of a city or town.

Providing either start up or other funding for the operation of an Historic Preservation Trust is not an acquisition, preservation or rehabilitation of a specific historic resource.~ It would seem to us to fall into the "support" box on the allowable uses chart, as you are supporting historic preservation efforts in~ your community.~ However, as you'll see on the chart, the support box is only available in the housing category.~ There's a long legislative history on why, but suffice to say the housing category is the only one where you can do things like this.~ And some communities do regularly transfer some funds to Municipal Affordable Housing Trusts.
If an Historic Trust was created in your community, they could apply for CPA funding through the normal channels, but it would have to be for a specific project on an historic resource, not for undetermined uses or operating expenses for the Trust.~
I know that often folks desire to transfer CPA funds to others so that they can then use it later without CPC or Town Meeting action, which you had said was the goal in Lenox, as well.~ However, that violates the way CPA was designed by the legislature.~ Each CPA project requires a specific recommendation vote by the CPC and a similar Town Meeting vote.~ Had CPA allowed pots of funding to just be distributed elsewhere, there would be tremendous pressure to just do that every year.~ The Community Preservation Committee and the entire structure of the Act would be rendered meaningless in short order, which was not the intent of the legislature when creating CPA.
As you may know, we're not attorneys at the Coalition, so you'll need to consult municipal counsel if you need a definitive legal opinion.~ But hopefully this information will be helpful in deciding how to proceed with your idea.”

Lenox Town Hall  6 Walker Street, Lenox, MA 01240   PH: (413) 637-5500