A Great Idea

by Barbara Walvoord

So here’s the problem: In the press of competing demands on community tax money, four areas tend to get short shrift–open space preservation, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreational facilities. Yet these aspects are critical to the long-term flourishing of the community.

So how about a state law that allows communities to vote to levy a real-estate tax surcharge to provide money for these four areas, and how about giving the communities some state matching funds for encouragement?

In 2000, the Massachusetts legislature did just that, with the Community Preservation Act (CPA). And the towns of Northampton and Easthampton voted to set aside CPA funds. You get the money by writing a grant proposal, which is then evaluated by a town CPA Committee and approved by the City Council.

And how about this idea–since the regular grant proposal process is long and complex, how about establishing an easier process for small grants up to $3,000? In 2015, the City of Northampton did just that.

And how about this–suppose Lathrop applied for one of these $3,000 grants to help us remove invasive plants that crowd out the native plants on which our wildlife depends? Great idea!

And suppose the city required the organization to match the grant with another $3,000? Great idea.

And suppose our Lathrop residents contributed through the resident councils, the Lathrop Community Fund, and other resident gifts? The city doesn’t just trust any assurances that we will raise the money in the future; Debra Parry had to certify that we actually had the matching money in hand. So we did, and she did, and they did. You can read our grant proposal at http://city.northampton.ma.us:8080/WebLink8/Browse.aspx?startid=112842&row=1&dbid=0. The city-owned Mineral Hills Conservation Area also received a grant to remove invasive plants.

The land committee’s 20 members work well together, enjoy our land, and enthusiastically seek new members, whatever their physical capabilities–there’s lots of interesting work to do. Contact me at walvoord@nd.edu.

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