Walsh supports Community Preservation Act

Mayor Martin Walsh announced on April 27 his support for the Community Preservation Act (CPA), which if approved would boost funding for affordable housing, historic preservation, and open spaces, according to a press release.

The proposal is currently pending before the City Council and potentially could be placed on the ballot in Boston in November.

Enacted by the state in 2000, the CPA allows communities to create a local fund for open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing. CPA requires that 10 percent of money collected be directed to those three efforts every year. The remaining 70 percent may be spent or put in reserve for those purposes.

The Boston CPA is a one percent property tax surcharge, with exemptions for low-income homeowners as well as low- and moderate-income senior owners. The tax would be calculated through a complex formula: It is a 1 percent tax on the cost of a property bill after $100,000 of value has been subtracted and the residential exemption applied, if applicable. That means an owner who has a property assessed at $400,000 would see an increase in the property bill of about $13. It is not a 1 percent increase in the property tax.

“Our city is growing and thriving, but success has brought challenges—housing costs being one of the greatest,” said Walsh, according to the press release. “We’ve studied the impacts and benefits, and I believe the Community Preservation Act offers a balanced and timely strategy for helping Boston build affordable housing, invest in our parks, and preserve Boston’s historic and inclusive character. I thank the City Council for taking this up, and look forward to working with them and our community partners in support of the Community Preservation Act.”

Communities can decide on the distribution of funds across affordable housing, historic preservation, or open space initiatives, as long as each area receives at least 10 percent of the total available funds. To determine which projects will receive funding, Boston would create a Community Preservation Committee upon adoption of the Act. The five-to-nine member board would make recommendations on CPA projects to the City Council.

In addition to the funds raised by the surcharge on property owners, communities that have adopted the CPA also receive matching contributions provided by a statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund, administered by the state Department of Revenue. These matching funds come from a surcharge on transaction fees at the Registry of Deeds and appropriations by the State Legislature. The match has ranged from 23 percent to approximately 50 percent. Last year, the match was 29 percent.

Currently, 160 towns and cities across the Commonwealth have approved the CPA, and $1.6 billion has been raised for community preservation funding statewide. New City revenue from the surcharge is estimated to be $16.5 million annually, and the average homeowner would pay an additional $28 per year.

The Boston CPA proposal is pending before the City Council. Following its adoption by the City Council, the proposal would then be put before voters in November. Alternatively, the question could be placed on the ballot without a Council vote, but would require a petition signed by at least five percent of Boston’s registered voters, which would be certified by the Election Commission.

1 comment for “Walsh supports Community Preservation Act

  1. May 9, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Northern Avenue Bridge Vertical Farm

    We can preserve Boston’s iconic landmarks while promoting a green future. Sustainability and historic preservation go hand-in-hand. The rustic charm of the rebuilt industrial era bridge will now be set within a green canopy.

    Multi-Use Trail

    The multi-use pedestrian and cycling trail would run down the current center lane of the bridge (once used by cars). A ramp would bring the Harborwalk to bridge level and be fully-handicap accessible.

    There would be towering vertical hydroponic greens on either side in the main exterior lanes. Greenery — as viewed from both near and far — would dominate the horizon above the water between the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and United States Courthouse HarborPark. The bridge would simultaneously be a destination and world showcase — while encouraging fitness among residents commuting by foot or wheel.

    Feeding World’s Hungry

    The Northern Avenue Bridge Vertical Farm would demonstrate to the world a method of feeding our cities into the next Century. Revenues could be generated through the sale of produce to local restaurants, grocery stores and local farmers markets. The installation would inspire people to go home and start horizontal and vertical hydroponic — or aquaponic — systems of their own. Hydroponic farming uses no soil and up to 95% less water. Vertical farming may prove key to sustainability and climate change resilience. The bridge area would be a foodie mecca — with a nearby café selling greens, as popular as your favorite coffee shop on the High Line in NYC.

    Aquaponics

    Aquaponics will serve to highlight the area’s waterfront and fishing legacy. Aquaponics is a cross between aquaculture raising fish and hydroponics, which is raising crops without soil. The exploration of the various developing technologies would make the bridge a fitting portal between the Innovation District and the Financial District.

    Colored LED Lights

    Colored LED lights have already been used to beautiful effect on the bridge. In a happy coincidence, downward-facing colored LED lights are also the most effective in growing. Produce could be grown year-round upon enclosure. In past year LED cost dropped 85% — making the lights accessible and profitable to indoor farms.

    Solar Power

    Similarly, the cost of power generated by solar has dropped to the point where, in much of the world, it is now close to coal or gas generated electricity. The more solar power increases, the cheaper it becomes to manufacture solar panels. Solar panels now can be made from lightweight, flexible materials.

    Four-Season Gathering Place

    The central barrel of the bridge would be available as a gathering place for all manner of community events. Public art would line the sides of the central barrel of the bridge containing the multi-use trail.

    Industrial Rustic Charm

    The dramatic experience of the bridge’s engineering would be enhanced by the contrast with the green produce. Interpretive signage about both the history and sustainability could be placed in the center multi-use walkway and on the cantilevered pedestrian sidewalks along the outside.

    Navigability Requirements

    The bridge could be fixed and elevated so as to meet both Coast Guard navigation requirements and projected changes in sea level over the life of the bridge. It instead could remain in an “open” position with a new walkway crossing the water at the height required for navigability. Or alternatively, it could be built so as to swing to an open position as the old bridge once did.

    Conclusion

    At the middle of last Century, General Electric was the builder of the locomotives of the Union Freight Railroad that carried produce across the bridge. Fittingly, now commuters would be able to walk and bicycle to work at General Electric headquarters while seeing their produce grown locally. This renovation would position Boston to be a beacon of the world’s future. It is time to bring this good idea to light.

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