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GROTON — A question whether or not public funds should be used for private preservation projects was the main topic of discussion at a meeting of the Community Preservation Committee held last Tuesday night.

The discussion was held amid a general review of the group’s policies and the submission of a handful of applications all vying for a piece of the $500,000 Community Preservation Act funding pie made up from this year’s surcharge on residential property taxes.

This meeting followed up new discussions where the subject of deed restrictions came up as a possible way to protect the town’s interest when using public funds for private projects.

Prompting the discussion was the decision by residents at last year’s Town Meeting to appropriate $137,000 from CPA funds for the Groton Grange to help pay for renovation work to the group’s historic meeting place on Champney Street.

Although the application by Grange members was accepted and approved by the CPC, doubts remained whether or not use of public funds to help the private institution was appropriate even though some of its activities as well as use of its building did serve the public on occasion.

Doubts about the situation raised by CPC member Rick Hughson inspired the possibility of placing a deed restriction on private properties such as that belonging to the Grange to insure that it not be sold without the town recovering its investment or at least giving the town a voice in any decision for future use or disposition of the property.

Although such a restriction was placed on the Grange by the Board of Selectmen, there was still no certain rule about deed restrictions for money given to private groups in the CPC’s policies.

Agreeing to look into the matter further, examples were sought from other Massachusetts town, including, most extensively, from Plymouth. In that case, the town’s CPC requires that residents receive some benefit from the private group in return for funding such as free, lifetime use of a building by the public or town boards and committees for meetings.

One innovation begun by the Plymouth policy was the creation of a revolving fund available to private groups for loans to renovate historic structures that could be paid back to the town over time.

The Plymouth CPC also makes sure residents at Town Meeting are alerted to the fact that the group under consideration for funding was a private one and the benefits it offered in return for that money.

In response to sample wording for possible inclusion in the committee’s policies stating flatly that the CPC “will not provide funds to any private organization,” Chairman Bruce Easom said Tuesday night that he felt it was not the responsibility of the committee to decide which applications to accept but only to review them to make sure they meet the standards for submission.

The decision whether or not to actually fund any application had to be left to Town Meeting voters.

Hughson disagreed, observing that often residents attending Town Meeting did know enough about the various applications to make informed decisions about them.

Member Carolyn Perkins pointed out that there was some precedent for the committee making the decision whether to accept an application or not when it used the town’s Master Plan as a guide.

“In a way, we’ve already set standards for it,” Perkins observed.

With the issue far from settled, members decided to form a sub-committee to look into the matter further and to report back later to the CPC as a whole.