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AYER — The town of Ayer Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) wants citizen feedback on the Draft Community Preservation Plan. When final, the plan will guide the allocation of Community Preservation Act funds for the next five years (fiscal years 2009-2013). The goals identified through the draft plan are intended to further the CPAC’s mission: To maximize the benefit of the CPA fund for Ayer.

The CPAC will be asking for citizen feedback at five public meetings in November and early December.

Background

The Community Preservation Act (CPA), as enabled through Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 44B, was adopted by Ayer voters in April 2001. The Ayer CPA currently receives funds through a local property tax surcharge of 1 percent and a variable state match of up to 100 percent of the local receipts. In the first two years of the program, Ayer’s local property tax surcharge was 3 percent; it was reduced to 1 percent by ballot vote in fiscal year 2003. Ayer adopted the CPA surcharge with exemptions for low-income households and low/moderate senior households. Since adoption, the Ayer CPA has raised over $1.6 million.

The law requires CPA to limit funding to four general types of projects: Community housing, historic preservation, open space, and recreation, with 10 percent minimum spending requirements for each of the first three categories.

In order to appropriate CPA funds, town meeting must act on a recommendation of the CPAC, a nine-member committee with representatives appointed by various boards and committees. As of November 2007, Ayer has appropriated CPA funds for a total of 10 projects. With roughly $1 million, CPA funding will result in the following community preservation achievements upon completion of current CPA projects:

* Restoration of the Town Hall’s historic slate roof.

* Town-wide inventory of historic resources (Phases I & II).

* New irrigation system at Pirone Park.

* New recreation amenities and preservation of Sandy Pond Beach.

* New fencing at Page-Hilltop playground.

* New affordable single-family homeownership unit by Habitat for Humanity.

* New elevators at an Ayer Senior Housing Complex.

* A greenway project.

* Historic façade restoration of the Pleasant Street School as part of the conversion to affordable housing

Creating the draft plan

In fall 2007, the CPAC developed a mission statement and preliminary goals and action matrix based on its review of past plans and extensive committee discussions. To assist with the transformation of its work into a Community Preservation Plan, the CPAC contracted the planning services of a consultant, JM Goldson Community Preservation & Planning, in February 2008.

Working with the consultant, the CPAC further studied existing documents and plans to create resource profiles and a preliminary list of possible goals for the CPA program overall and for each of the four CPA categories. CPAC members also responded to a questionnaire and participated in a planning workshop to prioritize the possible CPA goals. At the planning workshop, the CPAC used a group decision-making technique, referred to as dot voting, to indicate priorities. The consultant analyzed the results of the dot-voting exercise to determine the CPAC’s top priorities overall and in each of the CPA categories.

The overall principles and goals laid out in the draft plan are derived from the goals that the CPAC collectively identified as the highest priorities through the planning workshop and subsequent review and consideration of the preliminary draft plan.

Your feedback

The Ayer Community Preservation Act Committee and its consultant, Jennifer Goldson, will be seeking public feedback on the draft plan in its meetings with various town boards and committees in November and early December. All citizens of Ayer are welcome and encouraged to attend one or more meetings to provide feedback, suggestions, and project ideas for the future use of CPA funds. Suggestions can also be submitted by e-mail to Jennifer Goldson at jmgplanning@aol.com.

For more information, go to the CPAC Web site at www.ayer.ma.us/boards_preservation.htm or call Ayer Town Hall at (978) 772-8220.