As community preservation committees across the Island prepare their recommendations for the coming fiscal year, they report growing interest by Vineyarders in the possibilities offered by Community Preservation Act funding.
More than $3 million in requests are under consideration by preservation committees on the Island.
Town officials who oversee CPA funds have seen a surge in activity and applications.
“I think we’ve about doubled the number of applications we’ve received,” said Caroline Flanders, co-chairman of the West Tisbury committee.
Derrill Bazzy, chairman of Aquinnah’s committee, said: “We did more projects this year than ever and we’ve already got two applications for next year before we’ve sent a solicitation letter.”
In 2001, Aquinnah and Chilmark became the first Vineyard towns to approve the Community Preservation Act.
Now all six towns participate in the program, which matches state money with local tax surcharges to underwrite affordable housing and preservation of open space and historic buildings and sites.
In each town, community preservation committees review applications and submit recommendations for inclusion on town meeting warrants for voter approval.
Around the Vineyard, committee officials cite the flexibility and preservation act goals which closely mirror major Island concerns for the growing popularity of the program.
Sophisticated approaches are emerging such as the Island Affordable Housing Fund’s plan to apply to each of the six towns for help with its mission in 2008, according to administrative director Maeve Sheehan.
And while declining state revenues may endanger some preservation act program funding next year, local officials say the Island will be among the last to feel the impact of cuts.
“Because all six town participate and levy the maximum three per cent tax surcharge, we will enjoy the maximum matching benefit going forward,” Mr. Bazzy said.
The West Tisbury committee is readying its vote on nine applications for nearly $1.2 million in CPA funds. Each of the approved projects will be presented as an article to voters at town meeting in April. A public meeting, prior to the committee vote on the projects, will be held Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Howes House.
CPA funding allows towns to squirrel funds away for big projects, a benefit that West Tisbury has used. Ms. Flanders said the town has the funds to support all the projects before it but will likely spread some project payments over two or more years to match completion schedules. The West Tisbury projects applied for include five affordable housing plans totalling nearly $800,000, which would construct 15 new units and fund projects designed to help provide mortgage and rental conversion financing.
The committee also has been asked for $100,000 in 2008 for town hall renovation and $175,000 for Mill Pond cleanup as well as construction of a 4,200-foot path from the West Tisbury school west on State Road. The town historic commission has asked for $26,000 to update its inventory of historic places which has risen by 40 structures and 30 open spaces in the past twenty years.
The Oak Bluffs committee is considering its final decision on $948,000 in requests, including a $400,000 application for Bradley Square, a project that would blend affordable housing with historic preservation.
“It’s a great project but it’s a lot of money, so we need to go back and ask some more questions,” committee chairman Stephen Durkee said this week.
The application from the Island Affordable Housing Fund, detailed a multi-million dollar plan to convert the town’s first African American church into affordable housing for artists and extensive gallery space in the town’s burgeoning arts district.
The committee could allocate nearly $900,000 this year for projects in Oak Bluffs.
“It’s difficult when you can’t give enough money to worthwhile projects but you have to look at what benefits the town the most,” Mr. Durkee said.
The committee did reject the housing fund mortgage program and a request for $7,000 to cover a mortgage shortfall on a Island Housing Trust property on Sunset Road.
Tisbury’s $661,000 in CPA funding has been proposed for projects including historical preservation allocations of nearly $97,000 each for renovations to town hall and the Tashmoo Spring Building, to bring water supply to the new Bridge Housing project and a further $97,000 for the housing fund mortgage program and nearly $45,000 for rental assistance.
Another $97,000 was approved for irrigating Veterans Park soccer fields. A pre-existing project, the fields were considered eligible by the committee.
“Bearing in mind the limitations of the CPA,” said committee chairman Robert Wheeler, “our reading is that we can use funds for elements of projects to prevent harm or destruction of the asset.”
Chilmark has not finalized its community preservation budget though the priorities are clear. “We are basically piggybacking on the brilliant work done by (late chairman) Molly Flender,” said Chilmark committee chairman Andrew Goldman.
“We have allocated money to stone walls over the past few years and have the money to continue that effort this year,” said Mr. Goldman adding, “It’s a project people seem to enjoy”.
In 2007, Aquinnah financed six projects including completion of acquisition, renovation and leasing of the Vanderhoop Homestead with $75,000 in preservation act seed money, Mr. Bazzy said.
“The bottom line is that Aquinnah residents spent $40,000 and got a half million dollar project out of it,” Mr. Bazzy said.
“The building is self-sustaining from tenant lease payments by the Aquinnah Cultural Center.
“CPA funds allowed us to get the ball rolling and leverage it into $200,000 in private contributions from around the Island,” he said.
The town also used $30,000 for renovation of the town hall kitchen, $7,000 for preservation work at the library, as well as an open space project at the Cliffs, funds set aside for planning the town center housing and playground space and pre-development planning for additional affordable housing sites, he said. Applications for 2008 includes proposed work on the Gay Head Light.
Aquinnah received $120,000 in total CPA funds in 2007.
In Edgartown, the holiday rush slowed decision-making by the community preservation committee, who have yet to finalize decisions on any of their funding requests.
“Christmas just got in the way,” committee chairman Deborah Edmunds. The committee will present their funding proposal at a public meeting Jan. 10 at 5 p.m. at the town hall before making their final decisions and submitting warrant articles to the April 2008 annual town meeting.
Funding applications to renovate the Old School to include a performing arts center and from the Edgartown library for long-planned preservation work on the Carnegie Building are projects under consideration.