By Christopher Roberson
Since its formation 16 years ago, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) has invested $12.6 million to fund projects around the city.
During the July 12 City Council meeting, CPC Chairman Michael Schulze said $8 million has been spent on open space, $3 million on historical projects and $1.6 million on affordable housing. “We do need help on affordable housing, we’ve got the money to spend,” said Schulze, adding that the CPC only funded the Park Street development, and “I mentioned it to [state Housing Secretary] Jay Ash and he was all over it.”
Schulze also spoke about the Housing Rehabilitation Program that used to be offered through the city’s Community Development and Planning Department. Under that program, qualified homeowners could receive up to $20,000 to fund home improvement projects. “It was a great program and then it just went away,” said Schulze, adding that he was never given a clear answer as to why the program was discontinued.
In response, Ward 1 Councillor Jon Turco also could not understand why the program was no longer being offered. “Did we lose somebody in Community Development? Because I thought we still had the same staff,” he said.
Therefore, Turco asked that the program be reinstated.
Schulze said that any project funded by the CPC must come from outside the committee. “We do not initiate anything,” he said, adding that an outside entity must also have a maintenance plan in place.
Schulze said that once the CPC accepts a project, it typically goes through an extensive discussion and vetting process before a final vote is taken to send it to the City Council.
In addition to the affordable housing development on Park Street, the CPC has also put money into Tillie’s Farm, the rehabilitation project at Crystal Lake and the playground at Burke Elementary School.
Speaking about the committee’s history, Schulze said 52 percent of Peabody voters favored adopting the Community Preservation Act in 2001. “Most of those votes came out of Ward 1,” he said, adding that there were a number of projects happening in the ward at that time.
Schulze said the Act is set up so that on average, one percent of every homeowner’s tax bill goes to the CPC. “We’re working fine with that money; we have money in the bank,” he said.
He said that originally the state pledged a 100 percent match for every CPC project. “That has been taken away,” said Schulze, adding that now the state only provides a 27 percent match.
Schulze lauded the efforts of his fellow CPC members. “I’m quite proud say this commission has done an excellent job abiding by the rules,” he said. “These people have been on this since 2002, that’s a pretty stable commission.”
Mayor Edward Bettencourt shared his appreciation for the CPC. “It’s been a true blessing for our city,” he said. “Things that have really made a difference in our community have been funded by the Community Preservation Committee.”