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Community Preservation Act passes in Canton

The third time was the charm in Canton, where voters backed the adoption of the Community Preservation Act after rejecting the program in 2006 and again last spring.  

While Canton was among seven communities statewide to adopt the Community Preservation Act and an accompanying tax surcharge Tuesday, neighboring Milton was one of two to pass it up at the polls. Also, voters in Kingston and Duxbury, both longtime participants in the program, voted to lower their yearly CPA tax surcharges from 3 to 1 percent.  

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The Community Preservation Act, which has now been adopted by 155 communities statewide, allows cities and towns to establish an annual tax surcharge of up to 3 percent to provide money for open space, recreation, affordable housing, and historic preservation efforts. The state distributes annual matching funds to participating communities.

Backers of adopting the act, with an accompanying 1 percent surcharge, were celebrating in Canton, where the vote was 6,500 in favor and 5,011 opposed. “It’s been ‘the golden ring’ for so many years,” George Comeau said. “It would always get through Town Meeting but not the ballot vote. It just went down in flames in April.”

Comeau attributes Tuesday’s win to the vigorous campaign run by supporters. “The push was just constant,” he said.

In Milton, supporter John Cronin remained upbeat despite the Community Preservation Act defeat, which proposed a 1.5 percent surcharge, with 6,454 in favor and 8,255 opposed. “There are many towns where it doesn’t succeed the first time,” Cronin said. “The benefits to the town are so great I think people will insist on trying it again.”

Kingston’s Community Preservation Committee chairman, Craig Dalton,  was disappointed. Voters there overwhelmingly approved a reduction in the tax surcharge from 3 percent to 1 percent, with 4,766 in favor and 1,557 opposed. 

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“With the economic conditions, people chose to reduce their taxes,” Dalton said. “We’ll deal with what we’ve got the best we can.”

Duxbury voters, who made their town the first in the state to adopt the program in 2001, also approved a similar reduction in the surcharge, with 4,509 in favor and 3,096 opposed. While one precinct remained untallied Wednesday due to mechanical failure of a ballot machine, the count would not be enough to reverse the outcome, according to Community Preservation Committee chairman John Bear, who expressed dismay over the results.

“I was surprised because support for conservation in all forms is way up there in town,” Bear said. He said he believed concern over the cost of four major building projects influenced the outcome. “Those are going to be big hits on tax bills,” Bear said.

Duxbury voters Tuesday also approved a proposal to exempt the first $100,000 of property value from the surcharge. The local revenue from the community preservation surcharge will drop from $1 million to $350,000 annually, limiting what the town might be able to do in preservation efforts in the near future, Bear said.

“The big pieces of land we look at can be $4 or $5 million,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to buy them with CPA money.”

The other six communities that adopted the CPA in the election are Beverly, Fall River, Great Barrington, Salem, Somerset, and Somerville. Aside from Milton, Westhampton also rejected the measure.

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.

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