Council Passes Community Preservation Act

By Seth Daniel

In a unanimous vote on Monday night, the City Council passed the Community Preservation Act (CPA) measure, allowing the plan to proceed to the November ballot for a vote of the people of Chelsea.

The vote was 10-0 with Councillor Giovanni Recupero absent.

The matter has to be approved by the voters of Chelsea in November or it is null and void.

The measure was brought to the forefront by Councillors Roy Avellaneda and Matt Frank earlier in the year, and progressed through the usual legislative channels and is believed to have wide-ranging support.

“Now those of us in favor of this have our homework to do,” he said. “This is an opportunity for the residents to decide what they want to do. We have to make sure we are out educating people and letting them know what this is about now, though the summer and especially closer to November. There are several other communities that will be seeking this on the ballot, including Boston, and that will serve as a reminder here when people see the advertising leading up to that vote in Boston. We also wanted to make sure this went on the ballot when there was the largest voting block coming out, and this will be on the same ballot as the U.S. Presidential race and that should draw out a lot of people. This has the potential to bring a lot of great things to the City.”

The proposal in Chelsea would add a 1 percent surcharge to all real estate property tax bills. The exceptions to the charge would be for someone who owns a home and is qualified for low-income housing or low- or moderate income senior housing. There would also be an exemption of $100,000 of the value of the property lopped off before assessing the 1 percent – whether commercial or residential property.

It is estimated that the assessment would generate $335,000 in extra taxpayer dollars and that is matched by state funds at a rate of about 30 percent. That would mean a CPA fund would get about $435,000 in most years to spend on affordable housing project, parks, and historic preservation.

The average additional cost for a single-family homeowner annually is estimated at $24.22 and $14.27 per year for a condo owner. A three-family is estimated at an additional $38.31 per year.

If adopted the money would be placed into a fund and that fund would be controlled by a CPA Board. It would not be dispersed by the City Manager or the City Council, but rather this new Board made up of residents.

“I have given this idea much though,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “After careful consideration, I conclude Chelsea would benefit greatly from adoption of this act. Given our significant need for affordable housing and recreational space, I believe adoption of this surcharge, in a modest amount and with appropriate exemptions, would significantly enhance the quality of life of our residents.”

The CPA can enact a surcharge of up to 3 percent, but the proposal in Chelsea is for 1 percent.

“I think this is vitally important for our city,” said Frank. “Over the last 10 years, believe it or not, we’ve brought parks online and several of them. It’s not enough though. We need more revenues. It’s the big items like a soccer field and we’re running out of space. We need more funding…If Boston passes this and we don’t, Boston gets our share of the state money. I’d rather have the money spent on my fields.”

Councillor Judith Garcia gave an impassioned speech about how she used to play in a vacant lot called ‘War Zone’ only a few short years ago and hoped one day to be able to have a real park to play in. This, she said, could help to further that goal.

“Not that long ago I used to play in an empty lot with trash and syringes that we called ‘War Zone,’” she said. “My dream was to have more parks and open spaces that were clean and weren’t ruled by gangs selling drugs. Now, here I am at 24 and have the ability to vote on something that could bring about that change.”

Added Council President Dan Cortell, “We had a meeting about the shortage of playing fields a month ago and this is the kind of thing that would get us those badly needed playing fields…Now we need the public’s help all the way through this process.”

Certainly, though, the Council had the public’s help on Monday night, as speakers from the general public and the  Chelsea Collaborative flooded the Chambers to speak in favor of the CPA.

“I’m a homeowner and I’m for the CPA,” said Jose Iraheta. “It will increase the property taxes on my home and the values of my home are up which means more property taxes too. However, I am ok with this because I think this is just and it is needed in our community. This is money we’re not getting that we’ve paid in state taxes. It just makes sense.”

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