Tonight I attended a regional CPC meeting that included members of four different area CPC’s. It went very well and I’m hopeful that it will produce benefit for our respective towns, our region, and thereby the state of Massachusetts.
The Community Preservation Act is a state law that may be voluntarily adopted by cities and towns. If adopted, a small surcharge on property taxes goes into a local CPA fund. That fund is matched at some level by the state and can only be spent on certain things: Preservation of open space and historic assets as well as the creation of recreational assets and community housing.
The fund is manged by a local CPC – Community Preservation Committee to review funding applications and recommend projects for the legislative body to vote on.
I am a member of Middleboro’s CPC and before we adopted CPA I was a vocal advocate of it. After being appointed to the CPC, I attended meetings of the Bridgewater CPC and Plympton CPC. These committes and their chairmen – Marilee Kenney Hunt(Bridgewater) and Mark Russo(Plympton) were really supportive and really made me feel welcome at their meetings. I started a dialog with Marilee that led to the idea of a meeting of regional CPC’s. We agreed that meeting in person would allow the groups to network, develop relationships, share expertise, help avoid pitfalls, and perhaps to collaborate on regional projects. Marilee is the real deal and is the sort of person that can talk the talk but more importantly can walk the walk.
Regional meeting notes
The meeting took place at the Bridgewater Senior Center and included members from four different CPC’s – Bridgewater, Middleboro, Plympton, West Bridgewater. Special thanks to my associates from the Middleboro CPC who took time out of their lives to attend. Bridgewater CPA planner Jennifer Goldson had a loose agenda and facilitated the meeting. We started off with a brief statement from Marilee about the goals. Each attendee introduced themselves and talked a little about CPA in their own towns. Each CPC chose a representative to talk about the projects they had done or had planned. After that we talked about any ideas for regional projects. After that we had a general “was this worth it and do you want to do it again” discussion. There was wide agreement to continue meeting at roughly 4 month intervals.
A river runs through it
When the time came to talk about regional projects, I brought up the idea of building a pedestrian bridge over the Taunton River at Auburn street to connect the conservation land on the Bridgewater side with the conservation land on the Middleboro side. The response was very enthusiastic – not just about this project but also about the river as a binding thread that runs through several communities. Ted Eayres – who is also a member of the Middleboro CPC – raised the very germane point that preservation projects done on one side of the river, or other town border for that matter, might very well require action on the other side. As far as a theoretical Auburn Street pedestrian bridge – at least one person there who seemed to be familiar with this sort of project didn’t think it would be overly difficult to do from a regulatory perspective. Connecting the Great River Preserve(Bridgewater) with the Taunton River Wildlife Management Area(Middleboro) would be a very unique recreational asset and might bring visibility to the preservation needed on the Taunton and Nemasket rivers. Will it ever happen? I have no idea. If it ever happens it won’t be me running it. The important thing is *not* this particular project – but rather the idea of people from area towns working together and sharing their strengths to do good for the region generally.
After the meeting
So after the official meeting ended, people milled around and talked. “Milling” and “talking” might not sound like a big deal – but to me it is the whole point: Meeting, creating relationships, talking, learning, sharing information. I see these meetings not really as something that is going to change the world by themselves, but rather as a way to get to know other people who are working on the same thing. I spoke at length to a guy that had vast expertise in looking up deeds. I don’t have any need for that today – but maybe someday I will. There were people who had done all sorts of projects that required all sorts of expertise and involved all sorts of pitfalls. This is valuable stuff.
The idea a regional CPC is really nothing new – many professional groups routinely have conferencew where people network and share expertise.
It was great.