Carlisle Housing Authority supports Long Ridge LIP

by Karina Coombs

07aEH-Benfield
Windows have been installed on the front facade of the Benfield Farms senior affordable housing under construction on South Street. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

Members of the Carlisle Housing Authority voted on October 15 to recommend the Board of Selectmen adopt the 40B project proposed by Jeffrey Brem of Long Ridge Road as a Local Initiative Project (LIP). The vote was three in favor with one opposed. Brem has presented a plan to build 20 homes on 9.48 acres at 100 Long Ridge Road, with five of the home classified as affordable. 

According to The Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Community Development website (www.mass.gov/hed/economic/eohed/dhcd/fact-sheets/lip.html), the purpose of an LIP is to provide technical assistance to both housing developers and towns throughout the Commonwealth in an effort to help with the creation of affordable housing. Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky described Brem’s presentation at the Board of Selectmen’s October 8 meeting and explained that Carlisle needed to look at a variety of housing options to meet the state mandated goal of 10% affordable units including both rental and owner properties.

Member Randall Brown opposed the plan and said it did not offer enough affordable units to warrant the development, noting that only a handful of the proposed homes would be subsidized and the rest would add to the overall housing stock for the town thereby adding to the 10% affordable figure. 

Brown also noted that an increase of wells in such a small area could pose as a risk for neighboring water supplies. “It isn’t that awful sounding,” said Lehotsky, while acknowledging he did not know what the land would support. “You are still looking at two units per acre. You drive through Billerica and there are a lot of small lots with wells.” 

“Don’t we already have a lot of houses in the [affordable] range?” asked Brown. Brem has estimated that 15 of the homes would be sold at a market price of $700,000 to $725,000. The five units marked as affordable would have an anticipated sale price in the low $200,000 range. Members Carolyn Ing and James Bohn said Carlisle did not have properties in this lower range, with Ing adding that most undeveloped housing lots in town were being sold for more than that, in some cases twice as much more. 

Bohn said that he would vote for the motion because Carlisle needed housing diversity and Brem would be using his own money for the project. “It might get us some brownie points [with the state],” added Ing, explaining the project would show the town is inclined to add more housing.

The Housing Authority will not officially pass along its vote to the Selectmen until after its October 28 meeting, giving absent Housing Authority member Steve Pearlman an ability to weigh in.

Goff property planning

In other business, Lehotsky described the first design sessions for development of Goff property at 338 Bedford Road held on October 9 (see “Goff property development options explored,” October 16). Lehotsky said that he felt like the meeting, organized by the Carlisle Affordable Housing Trust, accomplished something by the end of the process, explaining that participants worked to create two very different site plans. 

The Goff property was purchased for housing and other municipal uses, explained Lehotsky. While only ten units of Department of Developmental Services (DDS) housing can be placed on the property, it can also be used for recreation or a senior/community center. The next session will be held on November 6.

Lehotsky is on the agenda for the next Housing Trust meeting to offer that the Housing Authority take responsibility for writing the Request for Proposal (RFP) on the property, given their experience with the Benfield Farms affordable housing development. He explained that the Housing Authority can start working on a proposal now, even without knowing which end of the property the DDS housing will be built on. Lehotsky would like to see the Housing Authority responsible for selecting the developer and moving the project forward as they did for Benfield.

Benfield Farms update 

Peabody Properties is beginning to interview lottery candidates this month, but Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) is still accepting applications from those interested in the property. The property is also on track for a model unit to be completed in early November for prospective tenants to tour. The unit will not be furnished, but will be painted and with flooring and cabinets. Lehotsky described the property as taking shape and starting to blend in with its surroundings.

Lehotsky circulated a letter from the NOAH regarding several additional fire-related items Fire Chief David Flannery had requested for the Benfield Farms property. Lehotsky explained that NOAH declined to add the items because they felt they went beyond what was required and they were confident with the systems they have put in place. Reached later, NOAH’s Director of Real Estate Development Toby Kramer noted that a fire protection engineer approved the Benfield plans, which meet local and state fire codes. Kramer explained the property has a 30,000-gallon fire safety cistern with its own well, a 24-foot roadway that allows two fire trucks parking alongside one another, a 40,000-gallon sprinkler system for the structure and a water valve connection near the front door for fire hoses. Kramer explained that the two or three remaining items in question were holdovers from a longer list that NOAH had been negotiating over the past few years with Flannery. “We’ve done everything we can to make it a safe building,” said Kramer. ∆