Historical Nominations, Recreation Projects Top Community Preservation Articles

By: Tim Wood

The Chatham Historical Society is seeking community preservation funds to restore the foundation of the antique Atwood House is FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – Community preservation projects totaling more than $500,000 will appear on the May annual town meeting warrant, all of them with the support of the board of selectmen.

Recreation-related projects dominate the CPC articles, although one critical request which almost didn't make the approved list was handled in a creative way.

The historical commission had requested $30,000 under the historic preservation aspect of the Community Preservation Act, which can also fund recreation, affordable housing and open space projects. As part of its effort to establish National Historic Register Districts in South Chatham and along Stage Harbor Road, the commission and department of community development were seeking the funds to hire a consultant to develop the nominations. Officials, however, were warned that because the project did not involve actual historic preservation, it would not qualify for funding under that category. Supplemental funding for the study was added to the community development budget as an alternative.

However, town counsel advised that the CPC could fund the study under its administrative budget. CPC Chairman Michael Tompsett told selectmen last week that the group agreed with that approach, and increased its administrative budget from the usual $15,000 to $45,000, which will go before voters as a separate article. The historic study funding will be removed from the community development department budget, he added.

Two CPC articles address affordable housing. One seeks $100,000 to add to the town's affordable housing trust fund, the other seeks to contribute the same amount to the Cape Cod Village project in Orleans, an affordable housing development that aims to provide a place to live for 15 autistic adults. Project proponent Bob Jones said other lower Cape towns are also making contributions, ranging from $50,000 (Truro and Provincetown, with the possibility of more next year) to Orleans' $450,000. This is the only affordable housing project in the state with financial support from multiple towns, he said.

“It's very unique, something that has been encouraged by the state,” he said. “They want to see a regional approach to problems that really are regional rather than burden a specific town with problems that are really regional.” Because Cape towns are contributing, Cape residents will receive preference for 70 percent of the units, he added. “That's as specific as we can be.”

Selectmen voted to support the request. They also backed three historical preservation projects. The Chatham Historical Society is requesting $80,000 to restore the foundation and do other restoration work at the 1752 Atwood House, one of the oldest homes in town and the site of the society's museum. Tompsett said the foundation needs “significant repairs.” After an onsite inspection, it was clear that the work is “very necessary,” he added. The Chatham Marconi Maritime Center is also seeking $30,000 to establish an archive. The funds would pay for an archival consultant to audit the collection, begin creating a digital catalog and train volunteers to continue the process.

The town is also seeking $22,500 for a preservation contractor to rehabilitate the Marconi powerhouse and garage buildings, located across Route 28 from the main Marconi campus. The buildings are part of the Marconi National Historic District and therefore the restoration work must be done in compliance with the federal department of the interior's standards for rehabilitation.

Recreation projects proposed by the CPC and endorsed by selectmen include $75,000 to create six pickleball courts at the basketball courts off Stepping Stones Road, adjacent to Monomoy Regional Middle School. The pickleball nets will be portable so that they can be removed and the area continue to be used for basketball.

Also, $18,000 is being sought for a new backstop at the little league field at the community center; $12,500 for improvements to the tees at the second and ninth hole at the town-owned Seaside Links Golf Course, as well as a path from the eight green to the ninth tees; $38,000 for improvements to the South Chatham Playground; and $50,000 for designs for new bleachers at Veterans Field. Tompsett said the project will look at the present bleachers, which are not up to current codes, as well as terracing the hill off Depot Road. Just as the Chatham Athletic Association contributed to the replacement of lights on the field, the organization will be providing 25 percent of the construction cost for the bleacher project.

A separate article sets aside $100,000 in each of three CPA categories – open space, historic resources and community housing – to fulfill the requirement that each receive at least 10 percent of the estimated annual revenue. If any of the town meeting articles fail to pass, the funds will remain in reserve for future appropriations in each category.

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