By John Lynds
Special to the Gazette
The City Council voted 12 to 1 on May 11 to put the Community Preservation Act (CPA) on the November ballot. The next day, the Boston Park Advocates (BPA) held a summit at Franklin Park to discuss what CPAs could mean for the parks in the city.
“Park advocates are thrilled with the outpouring of support from elected officials, from Mayor Walsh to so many city councilors,” said BPA in a statement.
More than 60 community members attended the summit at the Franklin Park to learn more about CPA and participate in an Imagine Boston 2030 session focused on parks.
Mayor Martin Walsh threw his support behind Boston adopting a CPA. By having a property tax surcharge in the city, Boston could raise $16.5 million with an additional $5 million in state matching funds to implement CPA programs focused on parks restoration, affordable housing, and historic preservation. If passed in November, the money Boston would receive would be divided into these three categories.
Proponents of the Boston CPA are recommending 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.
The meeting held by the BPA, a citywide network of people and organizations who champion Boston’s parks and open spaces, focused on the CPA vote by the Council.
Linda Orel of the Trust for Public Land discussed what Boston would gain from adopting a CPA.
“We are park-connected groups and individuals who care about a healthy and vibrant city,” said BPA in a statement. “Boston’s parks and open spaces enrich our lives and make our neighborhoods liveable. These places are our parks, schoolyards, athletic fields, streets, sidewalks, bikeways, community gardens, beaches, greenways, urban wilds, and reservations.”
The CPA statute allows communities to create a local Community Preservation Fund for open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing. The Walsh administration and the BPA both agree that the funds from CPA would provide a significant stream to support open space throughout the city, including Mission Hill.
In order to determine who will receive funding, Boston would create a Community Preservation Committee, once the act is adopted. This five-to-nine member board will make recommendations on CPA projects to the City Council. This committee would include at least one member each representing the interests of the Boston Conservation Commission, the Boston Landmarks Commission, Boston’s planning department, the Parks Commission, and the Housing Cabinet.