Shrewsbury talks Community Preservation funds during forum

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Shrewsbury talks Community Preservation funds during forum
Melanie Petrucci fills out a board focusing on open space needs at a CPA forum in Shrewsbury. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

SHREWSBURY – Residents gathered at the Shrewsbury Public Library on Tuesday for a forum discussing Community Preservation Act (CPA) priorities as well as next steps in Shrewsbury’s CPA process. 

This was the town’s first forum of this type since residents voted to opt into the program in 2020. 

It featured a presentation and a question-and-answer session with the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), which was established in 2021 following a Town Meeting vote.

The CPA will be back on the Town Meeting warrant once again this year, with an article seeking to help further establish Shrewsbury’s CPA program. 

“Even though we’re going to Town Meeting, we don’t have an opportunity right now to ask for a project at this time frame,” said CPC Chair Jason Molina. “So, this is just setting the monies up for the next year.”

Shrewsbury adopts CPA

Shrewsbury is the latest community in the region to adopt the CPA, joining Grafton, Hudson, Northborough and Southborough. 

Westborough, meanwhile, will vote on a ballot question asking to adopt the CPA in the fall. 

A state program, the CPA lets communities collect funds with a surcharge on tax bills that then gets added to with a state contribution.

Shrewsbury adopted a 1% surcharge, which is estimated to generate $789,000 in funds in the current fiscal year. The town is projected to then receive $236,000 in matching funds from that statewide CPA trust fund in November. 

“That’s a lot of money for these quality-of-life projects,” Molina said of the surcharge funds. 

Funds will be available as the town moves into the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1. 

CPA dollars can pay for open space, recreation, historic preservation and affordable housing projects. 

The committee will review applications for projects before then recommending projects to Town Meeting, which will ultimately approve or reject them. 

Since the committee was formed, it has been working on a community preservation plan, which Molina described as its guiding plan. 

Molina gave examples of projects in other communities that have moved forward with CPA-funded projects. 

Those included a dog park in Ayer, which leveraged funding from an outside foundation after the community paid 10% of the costs. 

Molina also noted work to create the Northborough Town Common, which began in 2016.

“That’s a great example of adding value to their downtown and creating a common space for their public,” Molina said of the common. 

Following Molina’s presentation, residents asked a number of questions regarding CPA funds and who can apply for them. 

Among them, one resident asked about work to redevelop the old Beal School in the downtown area. 

Though Molina noted that the committee wasn’t part of the Beal process, he added that it “does present an opportunity to leverage CPA funds for the open space that’s going to be made available.”

Under the most recent plans put forward by developers, Shrewsbury would retain 0.7 acres of open space on the Beal site.

Next steps

The Community Preservation Committee will publish its community preservation plan over the summer, alongside guidelines on how individuals and groups can apply for the funds. 

The application process will then kick off in the late fall or early winter. 

That will continue to be the timeline for reviewing CPA projects in the future beyond this initial year. 

Community members are still able to provide feedback on a community preservation needs by emailing [email protected].

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