Editorial: CPA worth supporting Tuesday in Westhampton
Since the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act was adopted in 2000, the state has helped fund more than $1 billion worth of projects in 148 communities throughout the commonwealth, including those in eight Hampshire County towns, as well as four communities in southern Franklin County.
That list does not include Westhampton, which in 2001 failed to pass the measure by 16 votes. Now, residents who support the CPA have organized to put the measure before the town’s voters again Tuesday. It will appear as Question 5 the Nov. 6 ballot in that town. A second public forum about the issue will take place Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall.
We think it’s time to say yes.
When the town nixed the CPA more than a decade ago, the measure was new and its impacts uncertain. However, in the years since, CPA funds have backed worthy projects, including many in the Valley.
Among these are the 181-acre Bean/Allard farm in Northampton that was acquired using CPA money. That land is being transformed into community gardens, farms and athletic fields. In Easthampton, $150,000 in CPA funds helped buy an East Street property, one portion of which will be preserved as open space and another will be used to develop an affordable duplex.
The CPA’s track record, in large and small communities, suggests that Westhampton and other towns would benefit from its adoption. Westhampton’s Open Space Committee has estimated that, if approved, the proposed tax levy would bring in $73,000 annually.
That said, it’s understandable some residents are opposed to the measure. If passed, the ballot item would add a 3 percent property tax surcharge to residents’ taxes in a town with a tax rate of $16.40 per $1,000 of property value, among the highest in the region.
But the measure does provide exemptions. The first $100,000 of property value is exempted from the surcharge and low- and moderate-income seniors can apply to opt out of the tax payments.
Leveraging funds for saving open space, preserving historic sites and creating affordable housing is a special challenge for small towns like Westhampton. The CPA has shown, in a range of projects statewide, that it can help communities accomplish these goals.