How the latest round of Community Preservation funds could be used

Feb 28, 2024

Since 2002, Dartmouth property owners have paid an extra 1.5% surtax as part of the Community Preservation Act. With matching money from the state, Dartmouth can then fund projects enhancing local open space and recreation, historic preservation and community housing.

With another Town Meeting approaching in June, that funding is once again up for grabs. 

Nearly all of the latest project proposals seek to design or study a future project: A new trail at Cornell Pond, a new bike path through Dartmouth and a new future for Apponagansett Park, to name a few. 

At its Feb. 20 meeting, the committee removed two proposals it said were out of the Community Preservation Act’s scope. It will now invite the remaining applicants to its March 12 meeting to answer questions and provide clarifications.

Community members may also attend the meeting to learn more about the proposals and ask questions. 

The harbor

The committee’s primary questions ahead of its next meeting concern Padanaram Harbor. 

They received four project proposals related to the harbor: The design of a master plan for Apponagansett Park, a study to look at dredging the harbor floor for safety and accessibility, the installation of new dinghy storage and an economic assessment of the waterfront. 

The last proposal was deemed ineligible for CPA funding, but the prior three will continue to be discussed. 

“What’s missing for me is the big picture, how does this master plan fit in with the harbor management plan? Where does the seawall design fit into this? Where does the Dias landing expansion fit into this? How does the dredging study fit into this?” said Chair Buddy Baker-Smith. “If that’s not coordinated, those things are really going to run afoul of each other.”

The Apponagansett Park Master Plan asks for $15,000, which the town would match with a $60,000 grant from the Seaport Economic Council. The plan would detail how the land should be developed moving forward.

Parks Board members Joe Vieira said he’s “perplexed” by the master plan application, as the Parks Board had not been consulted about the project and is strongly against developing the parcel as one whole piece.

The dredging feasibility study asks for $10,000, which would also be matched with a Seaport Economic Council grant. According to the application, the harbor already has issues with shallow areas that may present future problems for boats navigating the region.

For the new dinghy storage project, the Harbormaster asks for $9,000 from Community Preservation funds and plans to request a grant from the Seaport Economic Council. 

Cornell Pond

The trails at Cornell Pond could see a facelift in the future. The town requests $24,000 from the Community Preservation funds for a $120,000 study on Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible walking trails and footbridges. The Town submitted an application to MassTrails for a $96,000 grant that would cover the rest of the engineering study.

Cornell Pond, located in a wetland downstream of the Copicut Reservoir, is a destination in Dartmouth for fishing, boating and viewing wildlife. 

Baker-Smith said his only question for the town was why the project is expected to cost such a large amount of money: “I want to understand what those costs are,” he said. 

A new bike path

Dartmouth’s Pathways Committee seeks to study the possibility of building a “Northern Scenic Greenway” through Dartmouth, connecting Westport and New Bedford. The path would build out part of the South Coast Bikeway, an ambitious long-term project that aims to connect Fall River to Cape Cod with bikeable infrastructure. Several South Coast towns have already built portions of the bike path, including Mattapoisett’s new Shining Tides path along the water.  

The Pathways Committee requests $25,000 from Community Preservation funds, while the entire project study will cost $200,000. The committee plans to apply for a MassTrails grant for much of the other funding. 

A new housing plan

Dartmouth Housing Authority requests $25,000 for a new Housing Production Plan, which it is required to create every five years. The plan is meant to provide a blueprint for Dartmouth’s affordable housing goals. 

Planning Board Chair Margaret Sweet said she plans to ask the housing authority to provide more recent housing statistics than two years ago, as she’s sure more recent statistics are available. 

Since the Housing Production Plan is asking the Community Preservation Committee for funding, the committee will have some extra input into the plan, Baker-Smith said. For a committee that’s tasked with funding some community housing projects, that input could be key. 

We have the potential to put serious money into viable projects,” Baker-Smith said. 

A recent report from analysts at Tufts University found that over a third of cities and towns in the state have not adequately used Community Preservation funding on housing, as state law requires. Dartmouth meets the state requirement, but still spends the majority of its funding on open space and recreation. 

Chair Buddy Baker-Smith said the committee does not receive many community housing applications, though the committee is looking into why that’s the case.

Next steps

The Community Preservation Committee will hear from applicants and the general public at its March 12 meeting, at which point the committee will also decide which projects to recommend to Town Meeting.