Joint Meeting of the Lenox Community Preservation Committee & Board of Selectmen
November 2, 2015
Members in Attendance: Frederick Keator (CPC, Chair), Gene Chague (At Large), Tom Delasco (Planning), Channing Gibson (Selectmen), Al Harper (At Large), Catherine May (Housing Authority), Joe Strauch (Conservation), Olga Weiss (Historical Society), Ed Lane (BoS, Chair), Dave Roche (BoS), Warren Archey (BoS),
Members Absent: Tony Patella (Community Center), Ken Fowler (BoS)
Staff in Attendance: Christopher Ketchen (Town Manager), Gwen Miller (Town Planner), Stuart Saginor (Executive Director, Community Preservation Coalition)
Members of the Public: Tom Romeo (Lenox Land Trust), Ken Kelly (Lenox Land Trust), Gig Darey, Dick Piretti
Mr. Lane called the meeting to order at 7:07 p.m. He welcomed Stuart Saginor, and explained that the joint meeting was informational and educational: an opportunity to ask questions and hear how other communities approach the management and process of CPA funding.
Mr. Saginor introduced himself, and provided a state overview of the Community Preservation Act. He identified the Community Preservation Coalition (www.communitypreservation.org) website as an excellent resource. He explained that there are 158 CPA communities across the Commonwealth. He discussed the CPA Trust Fund, and pending legislation which would increase the deed registration fee that goes into the Trust Fund, reducing reliance on state budget surplus dollars.
Mr. Saginor then reviewed five (5) topics, answering questions about each topic after his preliminary presentation:
Mr. Saginor noted that a common confusion amongst Community Preservation Committees is the purpose of the required public hearing (Section 5(b)(1) of the CPA Legislation). While you have to do one a year, it does not have to be a component of the review of all projects before town meeting. It can be used to gain input from the community on CPA funding priorities. Mr. Saginor suggested holding one in April as a “dry run” before Town Meeting, and another in January to gather community input. He suggested that they are a useful tool in updating the CPA plan.
Mr. Saginor suggested that the CPC update its plan every year after it holds it community input hearing. He suggested including priorities for each CPA category, as well as past funded projects, and trends of allocations and expenditures, and said that the Preservation Coalition website has great examples of CPA plans. He had a few comments regarding the 2008 Lenox CPC plan:
- The plan is not specific enough: Housing especially
- Parcel level specificity is very valuable when possible
- The Open Space section was strong as it was derived from a recent OSRP.
Mr. Keator asked how much flexibility the CPC has in funding projects that may not have been identified in the plan. Mr. Saginor said that nothing requires the CPC to do everything in the plan or only priorities or projects in the plan.
Mr. Chague asked if the plan should include a specific list of prioritized open space. Mr. Saginor answered that maybe not—you want to be sensitive toward the private ownership of some parcels, and suggested identifying priority areas or types of parcels instead.
Mr. Romeo asked if CPA should give preference to project or priorities listed in the plan, and whether or not opinions of the CPC members should reflect the interests or opinions of the committee they represent. Mr. Saginor suggested that while it is beneficial to know what the larger sending group is considering, the CPC members are there at every meeting, reviewing the applications and putting in the time, and so they may have a different understanding for the project in question. He suggested that one way to resolve a split opinion on CPC is to “punt” it to Town Meeting.
Mr. Harper and Mr. Keator commented on how dedicated to fiduciary responsibility the CPA is. Mr. Saginor suggested weighing quality of life as an important criterion in a project as well.
Mr. Saginor stated that many communities are using a “two-step application” with earlier deadlines to vet projects early. He recommended using the CPA allowable uses chart directly in the application, and being very clear about what makes an application complete in terms of materials and information.
Mr. Gibson suggested in the past, the planner has reviewed applications for completeness, and suggested it might be a better use of time to have the committee do it going forward. Mr. Keator stated they tried doing it in two steps last year. Ms. Weiss stated she was in favor of the two-step process.
Mr. Keator asked if the committee could take a year off from funding projects to tighten up the process; Mr. Saginor said yes. Town Meeting, he said, would be a good time to announce it.
Mr. Saginor said the best thing Lenox could do would be to move its application deadline: the end of December does not give the committee enough time to vet applications. He suggested a September deadline for Step 1, and a November deadline for Step 2. One benefit suggested of allowing more time is the use of consultants to thoroughly vet projects.
Mr. Saginor started by saying the CPA legislation offers nothing about private projects. He described the “Anti Aid Amendment”, which prohibits the distribution of public funds to private organizations. The only way this can be done is if there is a public purpose and benefit. If the town is going to give money to a private entity, it should require a real property interest in return such as a deed restriction. All private funding projects should be reviewed by town counsel for compliance with the anti-aid amendment. The town has to hold the property interest. He pointed out that public benefit does not always equate to public access. Mr. Gibson asked if a lien could be placed on a property. Mr. Saginor wasn’t certain, but said the preservation restriction is the “holy grail”. Also,
the right of first refusal is another good restriction to use. He noted that the administration budget in CPA funds could be used to pay for town counsel’s review. Ms. May asked what the thinking is on funding for-profit projects. Mr. Saginor said it is a local decision and should always be vetted by town counsel. He stated it is key to see that your value is returned in public benefit. The level of funding varies for private projects. It varies from place to place and project to project. He noted it is valuable in housing to have CPC be first, because the town meeting vote is a strong endorsement of a project, instilling confidence in grant programs and investors.
Mr. Saginor started by discussing Conservation Restrictions (CRs). CRs are required on open spaced purchased through CPA funds. He described the doctrine of merger: one party has to hold the fee interest, while one has to own the restriction. The town cannot own both. The town can co-hold CRs and APRs with another party. CRs are very detailed, take a long time and many meetings to develop. It is good to have the local land trust, conservation commission, BOS and CPC review the CR, though only the Board of Selectmen and Cons Comm have signatory power in the approval. The warrant article does not have to say who the specific owner is. The CR can be finalized after Town Meeting. A Mr. Chague asked if the CPC should read the entire CR. Mr. Saginor said that the CPC is not a signatory on a CR, but should
discuss major themes of the CR ahead of time. A current property owner can own fee interest but the town will co-hold CR with a land trust, with one party being the designated manager.
Mr. Saginor recommended having one chief negotiator and knowing the process ahead of time. In Boxboro, the Land Committee is the chief negotiator, in Northampton, it is the Planning Director, Wayne Feiden. Some towns have consultants serve that purpose. He suggested only having one person being the point of contact with the land owner.
The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM.