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Community Preservation Committee bylaw to be presented at spring Town Meeting

Select Board member Michael Bettencourt, who is co-chair of the Community Preservation Act Study Committee, requested the board re-open the warrant and approve a bylaw article to establish the CPC. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/TARA HUGHES

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 The Community Preservation Act (CPA) Study Committee has taken stakeholder concerns to heart.

The committee voted last week to approve and present a bylaw warrant article — subject to minor amendments/edits with counsel — to the Select Board for approval, which would establish the Community Preservation Committee (CPC).

Co-chairs of the study committee, Michael Bettencourt and Anthea Brady, requested the board re-open the warrant and approve the bylaw article (and motion). After much discussion, the board voted unanimously to approve the article and accompanying motion for the spring Town Meeting.

Bettencourt, in defense of the change of heart, said the committee decided it would be best to listen to stakeholders and present a bylaw to be voted by Town Meeting, indicating exactly who will be on the committee. 

He added he believed this would help make the CPA vote more successful.

The CPA was previously put to Town Meeting for vote to allow it to move to townwide ballot through a citizen petition, but failed to pass at the time. This spring, the Select Board is looking to have the CPA approved by Town Meeting for townwide ballot for the November presidential election.

And, now, the board will be looking for Town Meeting to also approve the bylaw establishing the Community Preservation Committee.

The CPA Study Committee and the board had already voted to approve a 1.5% surcharge and three common exemptions from the CPA surcharge to be presented in a warrant article to Town Meeting in the spring.

The CPA Study Committee had also decided to present a draft bylaw to Town Meeting in the spring as an example of what Winchester’s Community Preservation Committee might look like. This committee is required to be established to make recommendations regarding CPA projects to be funded to the community’s legislative body, which is Town Meeting in Winchester.

However, in the last two weeks, due to the election season and more focus on the CPA, the Study Committee heard from stakeholders that they wanted to see and vote the actual CPC bylaw prior to supporting the CPA for the ballot in November.

In response to concerns and in order to increase the potential for acceptance of the CPA in both the spring and fall, the Study Committee and board agreed to put forth a bylaw article (and motion) for approval by Town Meeting in the spring.

“We’re just really trying to be responsive to the concerns of residents and stakeholders,” Bettencourt said. “So we, we’re really just trying to show good faith here.”

The proposed bylaw itself also allows for a range of stakeholders to weigh in on which projects should be recommended to Town Meeting for CPA funding, another concern voiced.

Bettencourt said other towns have CPCs that are Select Board heavy. The proposed CPC per the bylaw would include a member from the Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee, Field Management, Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Historical Commission, Housing Authority, at large member and the town manager (ex officio). 

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