CHATHAM – A variety of projects, ranging from salt marsh preservation to bike path mile markers, have been submitted for funding through the Community Preservation Act.
Sixteen proposals, totaling $1,460,050, will be reviewed by the community preservation committee, which is charged with making recommendations on the projects to voters at the May 11 annual town meeting.
According to Finance Director Alix Heilala, revenue this year from the Community Preservation Act 3 percent property tax surcharge is expected to be $1.1 million. The CPA fund also has an existing balance of $1.5 million, she said.
Community preservation projects must fit into four categories: affordable housing, historic preservation, recreation and open space. As has been the case in recent years, affordable housing requests top the list with a total of $695,000, followed by historic preservation at $351,500, recreation at $283,550 and open space at $75,000.
The largest single request is for $500,000 for the affordable housing trust fund, which is available to use to purchase or facilitate affordable housing acquisition. Last year, $362,000 from the fund was used to purchase a house on Crowell Road which was added to the town's MCI rent-to-own program.
“We do not have a specific property that we are looking at at this point in time,” said Community Development Director Kathleen Donovan. “The idea is to grow the trust fund to a point where we have a sufficient amount of money in it so that when the opportunity becomes available, we have the funding.” There is close to $1 million in the fund now, she added.
Responding to a question from a CPC member at the group's Jan. 6 meeting, Donovan said there is currently no one on the town's staff monitoring real estate listings to flag properties that might be eligible for purchase through the housing trust fund. That's a task officials hope the town's part-time affordable housing coordinator can take on eventually. The coordinator has done a full inventory of affordable units and was able to identify a few that were previously not in the town's inventory, said Principal Planner Aly Sabatino. The CPC is also being asked for $30,000 to continue funding the affordable housing coordinator position, which is shared with Harwich.
The town's rental assistance program is also seeking $150,000, and $15,000 is being sought to send town officials to the Community Development Partnership's Housing Institute.
The Eldredge Public Library is requesting $206,200 to restore the slate roof on the original 1896 section of the Main Street landmark, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town has been repairing leaks on an “ad hoc basis” with “diminishing success,” according to the CPA application. The project also includes masonry repairs and the replacement of two windows in the original section of the building, and the funding falls within the CPA's historic restoration category.
Town Clerk Julie Smith is requesting $100,000 to restore and preserve the town's vital birth, death and marriage records. The work can cost as much as $3,000 per record book, and also includes a microfilm record and PDF scan of each page. According to the application, Smith, who receives $3,000 annually in her budget for records preservation, has identified a minimum of 20 vital records books that need immediate attention. CPC members suggested Smith include another $35,600 in her request for additional shelving in the town clerk vault to store the restored volumes.
The town is also seeking $9,700 in historic restoration funds to restore and repair the town clock in the steeple of the First United Methodist Church.
The Chatham Conservation Foundation is asking for $75,000 to preserve salt marsh in Frost Fish Creek. Surrounded by 90 acres of Foundation-owned land west of Route 28, the Frost Fish Creek salt marsh was identified as a priority for preservation by the Association To Preserve Cape Cod and is within the Pleasant Bay Area of Critical Environmental Concern. APCC's study indicated multiple tidal restrictions and suggested further study to develop a plan to preserve the health of the marsh under different scenarios including removal of tidal restrictions, sea level rise and storm surges, according to the application.
Two studies will be funded with the CPA funding: complete hydraulic and hydrologic modeling, which will suggest strategies such as opening up restrictions like the culvert underneath Route 28 to increase tidal flow, and water quality modeling which will look at the resulting tidal changes. Based on the results, the Foundation will determine the feasibility of scenarios to preserve the salt marsh. The Foundation will contribute $5,000 to the $80,000 overall cost of the proposed studies.
The largest of the eight proposed recreation projects is a $122,250 request to build a new viewing platform and stairs at Old Mill Boatyard. Both the platform and stairs would be located along the eastern edge of the parking lot and were deferred from the 2017 renovation of the facility's bulkhead. The stairs attached to the eight-by-10 viewing platform would provide access to the intertidal shellfish flats in Stage Harbor known as the Champlain Flats and would replace existing, deteriorated stairs along the northern edge of the parking lot. The funds would cover engineering, permitting and construction, according to the application submitted by the natural resources department.
The natural resources department is also seeking $50,000 to develop a master site plan for improvements to Jackknife Harbor Beach, one of the town's most heavily used recreational beaches, used for swimming and shellfishing and boating access to Pleasant Bay. The unpaved access road and parking area frequently floods, according to the application, and storms have eroded the surface and limited use. The study is expected to provide recommendations for site and management improvements, including raising the roadway and protecting nearby marshes.
Pleasant Bay Community Boating is requesting $25,000 toward the construction of a fully accessible dock, which officials say will be the only Americans with Disabilities-compliant dock on the bay. It will include an accessible drop-off area on Route 28, an accessible pathway, a five-foot-wide, 109-foot-long pier connected to a 20-by-eight-foot staging/viewing area and seasonal gangway and float. Total cost of the project is $250,000, and the organization has raised $130,000 through private donations, and $25,000 is being requested in CPA funds from each of the four Pleasant Bay towns. PBCB hopes to begin work in March and have the project completed by mid June.
The town's bikeways committee is seeking $28,000 for two solar-powered motion activated warning lights which would be installed at the intersection of the Old Colony Rail Trail and Old Queen Anne Road. The lights would be similar to those recently installed at the Route 137 bike trail crossing, which were also purchased with CPA funds. At the convergence of four roads, the Old Queen Anne Road bike path crossing is considered “one of the more hazardous intersections” along the trail, said bikeways chair John O'Toole.
The group is also asking for $1,800 for milestone markers along the bike trail. Committee member Bob Oliver said the lack of mile markers makes it difficult for bicyclists to judge how far they've gone on the trail and where they are in relation to the downtown terminus. The committee initially asked for one granite post to place at the four-mile mark, which is the mid point of the trail, but CPC Chair Michael Tompsett suggested they add another $600 to their request for a second marker to be placed at the Chatham/Harwich town line.
Additional CPA requests include $10,000 for a Revolutionary War memorial in Chase Park; $22,500 for benches, accessible ramps and beach wheelchairs at Harding's and Oyster Pond beaches; and $24,000 to replant shrubs and flowers, and add benches and irrigation at Sears Park.
The CPC will continue its review of the proposals at its Jan. 27 meeting. Tompsett said he anticipates the group making recommendations at its Feb. 3 meeting.