Friday, May 8, 1998

Bleary-eyed voters buy into barn bylaw

by Dave Ives

Warrant Article 23 is a bylaw change meant to protect Carlisle's distinctive structures. Selectman Vivian Chaput, one of the original drafters of the Warrant article, opened the discussion by reading the lengthy proposal in its entirety. Voters, grown weary by 22 previous articles, went on to approve the new bylaw with surprisingly little controversy, either because issues from previous public hearings before the selectmen and planning board had been resolved or because of the late hour.

Chaput explained that Carlisle is fortunate to have been an agricultural community. The town has many beautiful structures and there is a perception of rurality. However, it is a financial burden to maintain old barns and there needs to be an economically viable alternative. Chaput explained that under the proposed bylaw, property owners with barns and outbuildings built prior to 1932 could, with approval from the zoning board of appeals, secure a special permit to renovate the structures for business. The other use as "a multi-family dwelling, containing two dwelling units" was removed from the article prior to Town Meeting. Chaput felt that the accessory apartment bylaw could be adapted to cover that situation.


Estabrook Road resident Art Milliken presented a series of slides with examples of some of the beautiful old barns still standing, including the most familiar at Guy Clark's farm on Concord Street. Milliken stressed that only 25 barns are left from the 100 in 1932. "We must allow reuse to make preservation economically feasible," said Milliken. "We were once a farming community and farming was a business. Allow barns to be used as a business once again. It won't cost taxpayers a penny."

Sarah Brophy of Curve Street came forward to support strongly the bylaw change. "Finding the money to preserve old barns is hard work," she said. "We can't hope to find money from the government. The new rules allow the zoning board of appeals to control the reuse effectively. It's self-limiting because of the cost."

Sarah Goldsmith of Lowell Street observed, "I'm glad Carlisle is moving in the direction that it's okay to make money in Carlisle as well as to have money."

Suggested amendments

Jim Davis of the historical commission proposed that the 1932 limiting date of existence, when zoning started, be changed since that would exclude barns at the Great Brook State

Park and some outbuildings at Guy Clark's farm. Davis also felt that the zoning board of appeals should be required to consult with the historical commission before authorizing a special permit. With regard to the 1932 limit, Hal Sauer of Westford Street suggested, "I suggest today, May 4, 1998, be the limit." Brophy countered that the intent is to preserve historic structures, and buildings constructed yesterday shouldn't qualify. After some further debate, both of Davis's proposed amendments were voted down and the original bylaw survived intact.

Richard Colman of Audubon Lane picked up on the comment in the Mosquito by selectman Doug Stevenson questioning the limitations put on commercial vehicles at any of these new businesses. Colman proposed that an exception be made for "goods, products, materials, or equipment associated with farming operations." George Foote of Judy Farm Road strode up to the microphone and exclaimed "We already allow that. It's a farm!" Colman's amendment was voted down and the original motion survived once again.

No further discussion ensued and the distinctive structure bylaw amendment was unanimously approved by the voters.