To the editor:
This letter responds to inaccuracies in the letter from Mr. Claude Ledoux. We give quotes and responses.
Quote: “CPC has spent $7,680,458 on 81 separate projects.”
Response: CPC does not “spend” funds. It recommends projects to Town Meeting and oversees expenditures. Town approved CPA funding for some 64 projects to date is $6 million; $2.5 million from the state match.
Quote: “Most CPC [CPA] funds have been granted to seven entities.”
Response.: A more meaningful description of the allocation of CPA funding is as follows: 29% to affordable community housing; 20% to sports fields and playgrounds, 13% to town owned historic buildings, documents and artifacts; 15% to open space preservation and watershed protection; and 11%, respectively, for preservation restrictions for farms and farm buildings, and for preservation and rehabilitation of private historic sites. In other words, nearly half of the funding has been to recreation and affordable housing, which as Mr. Ledoux states “were the major justifications for accepting CPC in 2001.”
Quote: “Thousands of ‘north-end watershed residents’ benefit little from the millions administered by CPC.”
Response: This is a loaded and inaccurate assertion. All residents benefit from CPA projects which preserve the town’s heritage. Property values throughout Westport benefit from the open space, watershed and farm protection, well-maintained and rehabilitated historic buildings, and playing fields. Physical location of projects does not determine their impact town-wide. A review of the projects makes that clear as shown on the CPC website.
Quote: “Open space funding of $2,030,000 has been excessive. CPC interactions were with only three initiating agencies.”
Response: CPA funding of open land and farm preservation restrictions has amounted to less than $1.3 million, not $2 million. Note also this spending provides for protection of the river and our watershed, e.g., our drinking water; provision of passive recreation and preservation of our farmlands. A major part of the total funding of these projects has not come from your surcharge, but from several state funding sources including the state match, partnering with the Westport Land Conservation Trust, the TTOR and the town’s Agricultural Open Space Trust Fund.
Quote: “Included in open space was continuous funding of the Estuaries Committee for a long-term “study” now $255,000.”
Response: The Estuaries Committee was not funded. CPA funding has been directed to the state-required Massachusetts Estuaries Project carried out by UMASS Dartmouth. To date $170,000 has been approved by Town Meeting, including testing (not studying) the quality of the river north of the Head of Westport. The purpose is to establish the maximum nitrogen loading limits for maintaining a healthy river and clean drinking water. This benefits the entire town.
Quote: “Considering that most purchases [of open space] benefitted wealthy landowners…”
Responses: CPA funding has not been used to purchase properties. It has been used to purchase conservation or agricultural preservation restrictions on property so that the land will be kept in agriculture and/or will remain undeveloped in order to protect sensitive watershed areas. The restrictions are held and administered by the town in perpetuity. Open space benefits everyone and helps keep the town rural in character.
Quote: “Historic -…. only $94,554 was used to fund one north-end project…”
Response: All projects serve all of Westport because they are required by CPA to serve a public purpose. $805, 659 for town-owned historic buildings, documents and artifacts; $18,223 for historic cemeteries $682,585 for non-profit owned buildings such as the Grange, historic schools and churches, and the Handy House; $200,000 for the Oscar Palmer Farm buildings. The insinuation that there is only one “north-end project” is divisive and untrue.
Quote: “$415,000 was used to purchase private property to be turned over to a private organization, taking priority over development of recreational ballfields for town youth.”
Response: The CPA funding for the National Register Handy House did not have any impact on “ballfield” funding whatsoever. The property was brought under the stewardship of the well regarded Westport Historical Society. This unique property is dedicated to use for the public and is protected by a historical preservation restriction. The town has first right of refusal at zero cost if the Handy House is ever sold. The town has the best of all possible worlds – a preserved landmark of great distinction and no obligation to maintain it. CPA is presently funding all types of recreation.
Quote: …”Spent in the other allowable categories: Affordable housing $1,736,431. Recreation. $657,000. These were the major justifications for accepting CPC in 2001. Both have suffered from low priorities in favor of more glamorous endeavors of agenda-driven connections. Reducing CPC to 1% will not affect these items.”
Response: Allocations for affordable housing have been nearly $1.8 million and for active recreation $1.2 million, 29% and 20% respectively of total CPA funding to date. In addition passive recreation is required in those properties given CPA open space funding. In other words, 49% of funding has been allocated to these two categories. They have NOT “suffered” from low priority. As for the justifications for accepting CPA in 2001-2002, the flyer that was circulated at the time stated the following goals: “protect our drinking water supplies, preserve farmland and open spaces, develop recreational fields, restore historic landmarks, create more housing opportunities for seniors.” It also stated “… on average, each new house that is developed in Westport costs more in services – police, fire, schools – than the tax revenue it provides. By investing now in CPA our local dollars and state matching funds will help to keep Westport rural and keep taxes low.” Finally, it is incorrect to say that affordable housing and recreation will not be affected by a reduction in the surcharge – all funding will be reduced.
Quote: “CPC recommendations for FY15…amount to $1,001,053…these…will be approved by Town Meeting.”
Response: CPC recommendations for projects for FY15 equal $687,000. These may or may not be approved by Town Meeting.
Quote: “In any case none of those funds could be used for any crucial town needs and would stay in the control of the connected groups.”
Response: The language in this statement is inaccurate, as portrayed in the data, and incendiary.
Quote: “History has shown that a special interests majority at Town Meeting will vote to deny a ballot vote and not allow a representative vote on this issue.”
Response: Town Meeting is a representative body. Citizens may attend and express themselves, actually listen to the arguments of others, and then vote. People do not vote to deny a ballot vote. They express their decision on a particular matter in question.
Quote: “Luxury taxation has replaced funding our basic needs, exemplified by this year’s override requests. ”
Response: Where is the “luxury taxation”? The CPA surcharge and the state matching funds are used as Town Meeting approves. In most cases, projects involve substantial added private funding and extensive volunteer work and in many cases, like the river dredging project, the private or matching funding overwhelms the CPA contribution. However, CPA provides necessary seed money. It assists the town to meet basic requirements like handicapped accessibility, affordable housing, and watershed and river protection, as well as preservation of its buildings, documents and artifacts. And as the flyer in 2001 stated, it actually “helps keep Westport rural and keep taxes low.”
Peter and Joan Fradley