A Good Start – Community Preservation Recommends Five Projects in First Round of Funding

Rehabbing historic monuments and buildings and establishing a community garden are among the first projects the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) will be recommending to the City Council during their initial pilot round of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding.

Monday night, the CPC recommended approval of funding for five projects, and tabled two other proposals until May so they can get more information on them.

The projects recommended by the CPC Monday night included money for the rehabilitation of the city’s Civil War monument, improvements to the Garden Cemetery, a Marlborough Street Community Garden proposed by The Neighborhood Developers (TND), and renovation of the Governor Bellingham-Cary House.

The two proposals that were tabled until more information could be gathered were for renovations to the Congregation Agudath Shalom Museum (Walnut Street Synagogue) and for the city to hire an Affordable Housing Trust Fund housing specialist on a one-year contract basis.

Each of the proposals generated debate to its merits, with members keeping an eye on the potential that future years will feature requests with potentially larger impacts on the CPA fund.

Chelsea voters approved the adoption of the CPA in November 2016. It will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to be used for the creation and acquisition of affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. The CPA trust fund currently has a balance of just over $2.2 million.

The projects that could be funded during the initial pilot round are capped at $50,000 each. The total of the seven proposals that came before the CPC is just under $270,000, according to CPC Chair Jose Iraheta.

The pilot round of funding is not only a way to get out the word about CPA funding, but also gives the CPC an opportunity to work out the best method for recommendation of the projects, Iraheta said. The CPC can make recommendations for projects, but the funding is ultimately approved by the City Council.

“There’s so much we have to do to educate the community and have them understand what this is all about,” said CPC member Bea Cravatta. “This is a good amount of money that can change the city in a positive way.”

Key among the factors CPC members weigh in considering recommendation for a project is its community support, benefit to the city’s vulnerable populations, matching funds from the project’s proponents, and how it fits into Chelsea’s overall Master Plan.

“I believe that little pieces like this are important to the community and to people of all income levels,” CPC member Tuck Willis said of the Civil War monument rehab. “Seeing a decaying monument is not good for anyone. A neater, cleaner, spiffier look is better for everyone.”

Improvements to the Garden Cemetery also got high marks from many of the CPC members.

“This is a fantastic project that strongly aligns with our leading and supporting principles,” said CPC Vice Chair Caroline Ellenbird.

Cravatta and CPC member Juan Vega both supported the project but said they would like to see some more ideas about how the community at large could make more use of the space.

The two projects with the most questions about them were tabled to give Karl Allen of the planning department time to gather more information for the CPC.

Vega and Willis both said they both had concerns about CPA funds being used to fund a staff position for the city with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. CPC members also had questions about funding and budget specifics for rehab of the Congregation Agudath Shalom Museum.

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Community Preservation Projects Ready to Get Underway

Community Preservation Projects Ready to Get Underway

The deadline to apply for the pilot round of grant funding for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds is fast approaching, with eligibility forms for potential projects due to City Hall by Wednesday, Feb. 13.

On Thursday, Jan. 31, the Community Preservation Committee held the first in a series of public informational sessions and application workshops centered around the draft Community Preservation Plan and the pilot round of funding. A public hearing on the plan itself is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 21 at the Chelsea Senior Center at 7 p.m.

For the pilot round only, applications will be limited to $50,000.

“We are doing this pilot program so we can get a better understanding of how the process will work and not having the committee approve huge amounts of money until we streamline the process,” said Karl Allen of the city’s Planning and Development Office.

Chelsea voters approved the adoption of the CPA in November 2016. It will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to be used for the creation and acquisition of affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. The CPA trust fund currently has a balance of just over $2.2 million.

“Part of our mission is to build our capacity in the community and to build the funds,” said Allen. “We have a low bar of entry for anyone who wants to apply.”

Last week’s workshop was geared toward helping pave the way for individuals or groups who want to apply for CPA funds, or who simply are interested in seeing what types of projects are eligible for the funds.

“We want to use the taxpayer’s money in a thoughtful way,” said Anna Callahan, a community planner at JM Goldson, the City’s consultant for the Community Preservation Plan.

In addition to limiting the grants to $50,000 in the pilot program, Callahan said the CPC is looking for projects that are shovel ready by the summer or fall of this year.

The first step for anyone interested in the pilot program is to complete a one-page project eligibility form by Feb. 13. Those eligibility forms will help determine if the proposed projects could be allowed under the CPA.

The next step is a more involved application due to Allen by Wednesday, April 3.

The CPA prioritizes projects where the applicant has control over the property or land for a proposal, Callahan said.

The best tactic with those with potential project ideas is to work with Allen and the CPC, Allen said.

“Ideally, if you have an idea, you can write it up quickly on the eligibility form and you can bring it to a workshop,” Allen said.

The last informational CPA information session before the eligibility forms are due is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Chelsea Senior Center at 1 p.m.

There are also application workshops for the longer process scheduled to take place at the Chelsea Public Library on Wednesday, March 13 at 6 p.m. and on Saturday, March 23 at 1 p.m.

CPA funds can be used for community housing, historic preservation, or open space and recreation needs.

The CPC is broadly recommending that 40 percent of the funds be allocated to community housing, 15 percent to historic preservation, 25 percent to open space and recreation and 15 percent as undesignated and available for any type of project, according to CPC Chairman Jose Iraheta.

The remaining 5 percent is reserved for administrative expenses.

In addition to groups and individuals, the City is also eligible to apply for CPA funding.

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.

Callahan said the CPC favors projects where there is site control, demonstrated community support, an ability to implement the project, and a focus on public accessibility.

“The CPA really reflects the community’s needs,” she said.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda pushed for placing the CPA on the city ballot in 2016 and said he has been closely following the CPC’s progress. “I’m thrilled that we are where we are right now,” he said.

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Community Preservation Committee Talks Future Money for Residents

Community Preservation Committee Talks Future Money for Residents

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.

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