A recent Chelsea Community Workshop on the Community Preservation Act (CPA) witnessed a vibrant community come out to speak about future investments they want to see in their respective neighborhoods, and the newly-established Community Preservation Committee (CPC) said they are there to help residents accomplish those goals.
Taking place in the main room of Chelsea’s senior center, residents poured in at on Sept. 27, and listen to local committee members present the growing potential of tax revenues collected as part of the CPA, which was passed in Nov. 2016 by Chelsea voters. To date, there has yet to be any projects designated for development by CPA funds.
Jennifer Goldson, founder and Managing Director for JM Goldson, presented the main purpose of the community workshop. Goldson presented the most viable options to the community and get them the most for their money’s worth, while also collecting their opinions on the matter to engage the community’s wants directly.
“We have to prioritize how we use that money and be smart about it,” Goldson said.
Goldson said an estimated $1.46 million has been collected from taxpayers for the CPA in 2017-18, and is available for future investment possibilities.
The CPA, which was passed with 66.5 percent of the vote, allows Chelsea to have direct control over tax revenue collected through residential and commercial properties at a rate of 1.5 percent, which is also matched by state government assistance. This new tax revenue requires a 10 percent commitment to three categories: historic preservation, community housing, along with open space and outdoor recreation programs.
Totaling 30 percent for these three mandatory categories, the CPC presented varying ideas to the community about how they’d best like to allot the remaining 70 percent.
“As time goes on the priorities of our communities change,” Jose Iraheta, chair of the CPC stated as he greeted the crowd in both English and Spanish, adding “We really need your help to pick between the three brackets.”
Iraheta addressed those in attendance coming in by asking them to tally a total of seven points into the three categories presented for allocating the appropriate tax funds for Chelsea to choose from. Residents walked up to tally their choices with the overwhelming majority of these votes going to community housing funding.
Voting for specific returns in the community proved popular amongst those in attendance, with Goldson conducting a series of small polls to gauge what the public felt was most necessary to invest in from each of the three categories. Additionally, Goldson also asked everyone in attendance to write down their ideas on the paper table covers in order to later collect them and determine which ideas were most eligible.
Presented in a matrix of potential possibilities Goldson displayed a few of the options residents could choose to focus on, including: new housing, home ownership programs, preferences for low-income families, stewardship of historic buildings, creating community gardens or waterfront access, improving existing parks, and preservation of natural resources.
Bea Cravatta, director of Chelsea’s Recreation and Cultural Affairs division, collected information about the demographics of the meeting through a 10 question poll.
“Great turnout today, a good mix of ages, profound interest, and collaboration has been the most exciting thing for me to see,” Cravatta said.
During the last half hour, residents were allowed to take the microphone to represent each table they were sitting at.
Some residents, like former City Councillor Matthew Frank, raised valid concerns.
“Instead of creating new open space, we need to clean up what we already have,” Frank stated in reference to existing open space problems the City already has on the Harbor Walk and other locations.
The CPC must present any and all ideas before City Council for approval after creating a Community Development Plan. The City Council retains the power to approve, deny or lower the allotted funds for project ideas.
The CPC will convene again in November at a date to be announced, and will present their viable future investment options in December.