Community Preservation Committee votes to recommend three projects

Mar 5, 2019

New hiking trails, help for new homebuyers, and renovations to Dartmouth’s new Cultural Center are heading to Town Meeting for approval through the Community Preservation program.

At its March 5 meeting, the Community Preservation Committee voted to recommend Town Meeting voters approve the three projects. The Committee oversees project proposals through Community Preservation funds, which are raised through a property tax surcharge and can only be spent on certain projects.

Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, along with the Buzzards Bay Coalition and the Dartmouth Conservation Commission, requested $600,000 to protect 121 acres of land near Dike Creek. The land includes two parcels that would be split into three off of Bakerville Road south of Gulf Road, and is currently home to two houses and a vineyard, along with woodlands and wetlands.

Two of the parcels include farmland that the Committee was invested in maintaining as such — even just by mowing the farmland twice a year.

Robert Truslow, the former president of DNRT who lives near the property on Bakerville Road, spoke in favor of the project.

“I walked my dog for years through the whole property,” Truslow said. “Walking through those woods, when you come out onto Dike Creek, is a magnificent experience because almost always when you come out onto the creek you see hawks, osprey, all kinds of bird life.”

The property is already bordered on three sides by conservation land. The public would be able to access the property off of Bakerville Road. Existing bushwhacked trails would be expanded for public access.

The Dartmouth Affordable Housing Trust, represented by Director of Development Deborah Melino-Wender, requested $350,000 for the Trust’s housing assistance program. The program, also called the buy down program, helps lower income residents buy a home in Dartmouth by providing up to $150,000 in assistance.

Melino-Wender said that the program has a rigorous application process. Applicants must be income and asset eligible, be pre-qualified by a bank, and be prepared to fund the down payment. The program also creates a deed rider, so that the house will continue to be sold to people who qualify for the program going forward.

About seven to ten people attended an information session about the program, but only two grants are available.

“This is really the only affordable home ownership opportunity that’s available,” Melino-Wender said. “The other affordable housing that we have is rental units.”

The Dartmouth Cultural Center applied for an $85,800 grant to kickstart the design and planning of needed renovations to the Old Southworth Library building. The nonprofit arts center was awarded a lease for the building last year, and currently hosts cultural and artistic activities on site.

The building needs to be made accessible, and Cultural Center and town officials want to restore and conserve the building.

Damon May, an architect from Dewing Schmid Kearns, said that the funds would enable his firm to draw up a complete set of bid documents that could be sent to builders.

“In general, it’s in good shape,” May said. “It does need updating and that’s the nature of this grant request. The project needs most of all a modernization to be handicap accessible.”

The plans would need to be approved by the town, which owns the building, and by the Historical Commission.

The committee voted to recommend funding the project with $88,500 from Historical Preservation Reserves, with the condition that the building be put under a historic preservation restriction, and that an agreement be drafted clarifying the process for decision making amongst the town, Dartmouth Cultural Center, and Dartmouth Historical Commission.

The committee also voted to recommend granting the Dartmouth Historic Preservation Trust $5,500 to defend the Commission’s restrictions if necessary.

With the items recommended, Town Meeting voters will give the final approval. The Spring Town Meeting will be held on June 4, 9 a.m. at Dartmouth Middle School.