The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 29, 1999


Proposed planning board Warrant articles for spring Town Meeting

The Carlisle Planning Board is proposing three Warrant articles for the spring Town Meeting. Initial copies are now available and the board is asking for comments and recommendations.

The following is a brief description of the bylaw changes. Section 8.5Open Space Neighborhoods. This proposal is essentially the same Warrant article that was presented by the planning board at the 1996 spring Town Meeting. That article failed to obtain the needed two-thirds majority by eight votes. The basic concept of the Open Space Neighborhood (OSN) Bylaw is to allow a grouping or clustering of single-family homes on a parcel of land while preserving the remainder of the parcel as open space. This concept has been adopted by many communities in Massachusetts (such as Acton, Concord, Lincoln, Sherborn and Westford), in an effort to preserve open space and to provide an alternative approach to the developer and to land-use boards.

The OSN bylaw features the following significant points. It is available for parcels of land ten acres or more. Individual lot sizes may be reduced in return for the open space. It maintains overall two-acre zoning for the entire parcel. Open space will either be conveyed to the town or subject to a permanent conservation restriction. Just like any subdivision, development must comply with the requirements of the board of health and conservation commission, but must also receive a discretionary special permit from the planning board.

Pluses and minuses

As with any landuse bylaw, there are pluses and minuses to the approach. The benefits of clustering lots as contemplated in the OSN versus a conventional subdivision include:

· the potential of reduced infrastructure cost to the developer because a less extensive road and utility network can serve the homes;

· the ability to locate house lots on the parcel to avoid sensitive natural resources such as wildlife corridors, wetlands, scenic features, and mature growth;

· the ability to locate house lots on the part of the parcel that is more favorable, rather than forcing the siting of homes on marginal soils.

Some of the concerns regarding the OSN approach that were raised the first time the planning board presented this concept in 1996 were:

· the effect the reduced lot sizes would have on the town's tax base;

· issues surrounding reduced lot size because the house lots will be served by septic systems rather than a town sewer system.

Section 5.8.11Amendment to the OSN bylaw entitled "Optional Special Provisions for Affordable Housing." This proposed Warrant article is intended to be presented only if the previous Warrant article for the OSN bylaw is approved.

This article contemplates providing up to two bonus lots to a developer within an OSN if a lot or lots within the OSN subdivision are donated to the town for affordable housing. This article was not presented to the town in 1996, and the planning board will be working with other town officials to refine this proposal.

Section to the town's existing conservation cluster bylaw. The existing conservation cluster bylaw allows a developer a bonus lot (one additional house lot over that which could be developed under an approval-not-required plan), if the open space to be set aside within the development is special or unique to the town. Whereas the OSN bylaw described above is not dependent on the "uniqueness" of the open space preserved, the existing conservation cluster bylaw is so dependent because a bonus lot is allowable. The proposed amendment to the existing bylaw would also allow a bonus lot within a conservation cluster if affordable housing is provided within the development.

The planning board expects to schedule an open public meeting sometime in February to hear all questions and comments concerning the proposed Warrant articles. They will also schedule a public hearing sometime in April.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito