, Salem, MA

December 6, 2012

City gets ball rolling on CPA

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — Three city councilors have joined a working group to discuss and propose how the Community Preservation Act will be implemented in Salem.

Councilors Josh Turiel, Jerry Ryan and Tom Furey volunteered for the seven-member board this week. The working group will also have a representative from Mayor Kim Driscoll’s office and three from the Salem Community Preservation Alliance, the citizens group that collected signatures to put the CPA on Salem’s ballot in November: Mickey Northcutt, Bart Hoskins and Christine Sullivan.

The CPA allows cities and towns to add a surcharge on the property tax to benefit projects that create or improve recreation, open space, affordable housing or historic preservation. The extra money raised is matched with state funds.

Salem’s CPA ballot question passed by more than 1,500 votes on Nov. 6. The city could begin CPA projects as soon as July 1.

To do so, the city must form a CPA committee, a five- to nine-member board required by state law to vet each potential project.

The working group formed this week will discuss what a CPA committee could look like in Salem — from their duties to number of members, how long their terms would be and other details. They’ll submit a proposal to the City Council, which will have the final say in establishing the committee.

The city solicitor’s office will also be involved in the process.

“It’s a fair, thoughtful way to approach creating (the CPA) committee,” Northcutt said yesterday. “I think it will be a really positive way to approach it.”

By law, the first five members of a CPA committee must come from existing city boards: the Historical Commission, Parks and Recreation Board, Housing Authority, Conservation Commission, and Planning Board.

Communities have the option to include up to four additional members, who could be appointed by the mayor or City Council, elected, or found by other methods.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted to create the CPA working group, specifying that the three representatives from the Salem CPA Alliance come from varying backgrounds: parks and recreation, affordable housing, and preservation through Historic Salem Inc.

Northcutt is director of the North Shore Community Development Coalition, which develops and manages affordable housing in Salem and Beverly. Hoskins is on the city’s Conservation Commission, works for the Environmental Protection Agency and was involved in organizing Salem’s dog park. Sullivan is a preservationist, past president of Historic Salem and CEO of Salem State University’s Enterprise Center.

In a Nov. 15 letter to the City Council, Driscoll suggested the working group’s format of three councilors and three people from the CPA Alliance.

Beverly also passed the CPA in November and recently formed an ad hoc working group to focus on the CPA. Both cities will charge a 1 percent CPA surcharge on property taxes.

In August, Salem’s City Council voted 6-5 against putting the CPA on the November ballot. Ryan was among the six councilors opposed to putting the CPA on the ballot, while Turiel and Furey voted in favor.

Soon after the council’s vote the Salem CPA Alliance, a citizens group of roughly 35 people, collected the 1,350 signatures needed to get the question on the ballot.

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.