With 61% of vote, Community Preservation Act passes in Greenfield



Staff Writer
Published: 11/4/2020 1:48:49 PM

Editor’s Note: The final numbers in this story may change, as mail-in ballots are being counted through Friday at 5 p.m., provided they were postmarked by Tuesday.

GREENFIELD — The majority of voters in Tuesday’s election opted to have the city adopt the Community Preservation Act, which will impose a surcharge of 1 percent on the annual property tax levy of each individual taxpayer so that Greenfield can establish a fund it will use to preserve open space, restore historic sites and more.

Sixty-one percent of Greenfield voters, or 5,438 people, voted in favor of adopting the Community Preservation Act, compared to 3,440 votes against it.

City Council Vice President Otis Wheeler, who supported the ballot question brought forward by former City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud in 2019, said Wednesday that he has already talked to state officials to ask for help in adopting the Community Preservation Act and forming the committee the city will need to make recommendations, as well as any other technical assistance.

“I was surprised but very happy to see it pass,” Wheeler said. “I think it goes to show you can’t make presumptions about what voters in Greenfield want. We didn’t run a campaign because of the pandemic, but voters read the question and voted ‘yes’ because they believe in the CPA.”

Likewise, Renaud said she’s very happy voters decided to adopt the Community Preservation Act.

“It was a recommendation from a committee I put together to address affordable housing when I was on the council,” Renaud recalled. “I thought it was a good recommendation. I’m so glad I put it forward and the people of Greenfield are willing to invest. I didn’t expect it in times like these, but I’m happy so many believed in it.”

Some voters interviewed at the polls Tuesday, though it might cost them a little more each year, said they were all for preserving and protecting open space, like parks and recreation areas. They also liked the idea of protecting the city’s public drinking water sources, aquifers, wetlands, farmlands, forests, marshes, scenic areas and wildlife preserves, which the Community Preservation Act allows its members to do.

Greenfield resident Matthew Griswold said he voted “yes” on the question. His family donated the 200-acre Griswold/GTD Conservation Area on Lampblack Road, so he said he’s for anything that helps preserve land.

“I’m always happy to see ‘great escapes,’ like the land my grandfather donated, preserved,” he said.

Adopting the act also allows cities and towns to restore historic buildings and sites and create, preserve and restore affordable housing.

The Community Preservation Act was passed as a state law in 2000, allowing cities and towns to adopt it by imposing a surcharge. Revenues come from that surcharge as well as the state’s Community Preservation Trust Fund.

“Some people would be exempt from the surcharge, including people who qualify for low-income housing or low- to moderate-income senior housing,” City Clerk Kathy Scott explained. “A taxpayer receiving a regular property tax abatement or exemption would receive a pro-rata reduction in the surcharge.”

Now that Greenfield has adopted the Community Preservation Act and will begin imposing a surcharge on local property taxes, the state will match the amount. The state receives money from each town — which, when rates increase this month, will be a $50 recording fee at the registries of deeds, and a $25 fee for municipal lien certificates — and that money is redistributed to member towns and cities.

The city will establish a Community Preservation Committee to study community preservation resources, possibilities and needs, and that committee would then make annual recommendations to City Council regarding how to spend the money.

“We’ll assemble a broad group of people who support the various aspects of the act,” Wheeler said. “I’m sure we’ll have some great volunteers. I’m really glad the council decided to take this up and vote to put it on the ballot.”

The ballot question needed a majority vote to pass. State law requires adoption of the Community Preservation Act be decided by voters rather than by a government body. Seven Franklin County towns had previously adopted the Community Preservation Act: Conway, Deerfield, Leverett, Northfield, Shutesbury, Sunderland and Whately.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com. Information from the State House News Service was used in this report.

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