Adopting the state Community Preservation Act will have genuine benefits for Pittsfield. Voters should have an opportunity to make it a reality in November.
The Community Preservation Act (CPA) provides an ideal way to raise funds for many important projects, among them preserving historic buildings and creating affordable housing. Those are prominent among the goals Pittsfield is addressing and must continue to address.
Because the CPA is funded in part through a percentage of real estate fees, every municipality already contributes to it and has since its inception. Real estate broker Beth VanNess told the City Council's Ordinance and Rules Committee Tuesday night that $43,000 in registry fees generated from home sales in Pittsfield last year went to the CPA pool shared by 161 other Massachusetts communities. (Eagle, July 28).
If adopting the CPA is approved by Pittsfield voters and takes effect on July 1, 2017, a 1 percent surcharge would be made on property after the first $100,000 in assessed value, an increase of roughly $14 in the first year for an average single-family homeowner according to advocates. Along with the rehabilitation of historic buildings, such as for example, the St. Mary the Morning Star building on Tyler Street, and affordable housing, the revenue raised could be used to rehabilitate parks and preserve open spaces. There would not be a lack of candidates for the funds in Pittsfield.
It is unfortunate that Pittsfield rejected the CPA in 2006. Pembroke approved it the same year and has amassed nearly $2.5 million in the decade since. Under the current proposal for Pittsfield, exemptions for small businesses, veterans, senior citizens and low-income residents are provided that were not included in 2006.
The Ordinance and Rules Committee voted 4-0 to ask voters to consider adopting the CPA on the Nov. 8 ballot and ideally the full City Council will make the same recommendation unanimously when it meets in August. (North Adams should adopt the CPA as well.) The CPA has paid dividends for Lenox, Williamstown, Stockbridge and Great Barrington and it will for Pittsfield as well.