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Historical Society seeks to put CPA back on table in Danvers | News

DANVERS — Danvers residents are once again seeking to put the Community Preservation Act on the ballot for Town Election this spring.

If it were to pass, the CPA would impose a surcharge on property tax bills to generate revenue for historic preservation, open space and community housing programs in Danvers. Local CPA revenues would be augmented by state funding from the Community Preservation Trust Fund.

The Danvers Historical Society’s Board of Trustees and other Danvers residents recently spent a weekend collecting signatures from residents at Tapley Memorial Hall and say they already have about a third of the needed 1,300 signatures. Town Election is May 3, and they need at least 1,100 signatures by March 22 to get on the ballot.

“We are really putting the push to ramp it up,” said Dan Bennett, the vice president of the Historical Society’s trustees as well as a Select Board member. “The folks who are signing…are very positive and very willing to sign the petition.”

“The turn down from the people is very minimal,” he added.

If the CPA gets voter approval, it will place a surcharge of 1% on property tax bills to fund eligible projects.

The Historical Society’s list of possible projects to be funded with CPA dollars, include restoring dozens of veterans’ graves at town-owned cemeteries or the abandoned cemeteries the town maintains and ensuring preservation of the 1681 Salem Village Parsonage site, the 1892 Peabody Institute Library, the 1855 Town Hall, the 1832 Putnamville School, the façade of the 1923 Holten-Richmond Middle School, the 1870 Civil War memorial and the Salem Village Witch-Hunt Victims Memorial.

The CPA, according to the Community Preservation Coalition, “is a smart growth tool that helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities.”

The coalition says CPA monies help local economies by expanding housing opportunities and construction jobs and by supporting the tourism industry by preserving historic and natural resources.”

The last time the CPA was introduced for a vote in Danvers in 2016, the measure was opposed by 60% of voters.

The 2016 question asked for a 1.5% surcharge on property taxes.

That version would also have exempted the first $100,000 of a person’s property value, and there were exemptions for low- to moderate-income seniors and low-income households. It was estimated the average single-family homeowner in 2016, with a house assessed at $392,000, would pay $62 a year in extra taxes, or $15.57 per quarter.

This time around, Bennett explained there would be no exemption of the first $100,000 of property value because the local charge was reduced to 1%.

“It raises basically the same amount of money and you don’t need that deduction and it would have been a lot of work for the assessor’s department,” he added, explaining that the surcharge to the average tax bill would be $17.50 a quarter.

From Bennett’s perspective, the loss in 2016 was due to the fact that the question came on a presidential election year.

“We were shoveling against a tide during a general election,” he said.

Town Meeting member and former selectman Mark Zuberek — who helped spearhead the No CPA in Danvers ballot committee —said in 2016 that “Taxpayers are paying enough, no more taxes… This is the time to work harder instead of asking everybody for money… What we need to do is have the selectmen work harder to make the budget fall in line with what the taxpayers are already paying.”

On the North Shore, Danvers is one of the few communities that hasn’t adopted the CPA, along with Topsfield and Ipswich.

Beverly, Peabody, Salem, Middleton, Hamilton, Wenham, Manchester, Essex, Gloucester and Rockport have all adopted the CPA, according to the Community Preservation Coalition, which notes on its website that 187 cities and towns in the state have passed the CPA, representing 77% of Massachusetts.

“The initiative now is to collect the signatures,” Bennett said. “Once we are certified, we will go into educational mode.”

He said proponents plan to host a speaker series at Tapley Hall where residents can learn about CPAs and ask questions about the CPA. Backers also plan on sending out some literature to town election voters.

But for now, he said, “We have to be out on the streets.”

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