Community Preservation Committee Votes Six Projects Worth $1.7 Million Forward To Town Meeting

Photo: The Grove Street basketball court will be reconstructed as part of the $1.7 million CPC package

The town’s Community Preservation Committee is sending six applications totaling $1.7 million to the annual Town Meeting for the body’s approval in the spring.

After some wrangling and reductions in two grant amounts, the projects which won the committee’s recommendation on Wednesday, Jan. 18 are:

Each project, which has undergone five months of financial scrutiny and applicability by the committee, was approved unanimously by the six members who attended the meeting.

Passed by town voters in November 2010, Belmont raises money for its Community Preservation Fund by imposing a 1.5 percent surcharge on local real estate taxes, collecting approximately $1 million annually. Additionally, each year the state distributes limited matching funds to the towns that have passed the CPA. These funds are collected from existing fees on real estate transactions at the Registry of Deeds.

CPC Chair Elizabeth Dionne noted that for the first time in many years, the dollar amount of the grants – $1,753,343 – nearly reached this year’s available funds of $1,757,666.

A preliminary grant application for $50,000 to begin design and engineering drawings for a renovation of the Underwood Playground above the Underwood Pool was withdrawn in December when CPC members felt the project could be delayed until the next CPC cycle beginning in the summer of 2023. Dionne also pointed to advocates of a Belmont Skate Park who view the park as a possible location for its park which would require the applicant to redefine the project’s scope.

Due to rules that require the CPC to have an adequate reserve for the three CPC “buckets” – the committee funds projects in historic preservation, affordable housing, and land conservation – the CPC approved cutting the original ask for the affordable housing application and the new conservation fund by $30,000 each with the $60,000 going into the historic reserve. The two grants will revert to the initial request if current projects turn back any extra funds when they close.

In addition to the final vote, the CPC voted unanimously to establish a reserve fund, serving as an “escape hatch” for emergency, off-cycle requests; the most recent example was the Town Hall slate roof that was underfunded at its initial request and the collapse last year of the Benton Library’s chimney.

Dionne’s suggestion was for 10 percent of CPC total budget, which would be approximately $140,000, but it was reduced to $100,000.