Friday, March 5, 1999
Planning board reacts to bank plan and associated bylaw change
Representatives of the North Middlesex Savings Bank appeared before the planning board on February 22 to discuss a proposed Warrant article to amend the town's zoning bylaws. They wish to add "commercial bank" to section 3.2.2, "Uses Permissable on Special Permit in Residence Districts". Tony O'Neil, vice-president and treasurer of the bank, presented pictures and a site map of the proposed facility.
"We've served the residents of northern Middlesex County for over 113 years," boasted O'Neil. "Our main office is in Ayer, with two full-service branches in Littleton and Pepperell." O'Neil believes that the people of Carlisle are willing to support a banking office. Since BankBoston left town, municipal departments, businesses, and residents have had to travel to nearby towns for their banking needs. The bank plans to offer services such as safe deposit boxes, night depository, drive-up ATM, and live tellers.
Member Dan Holzman asked, "Will you be swallowed up by a bigger bank like the others in Carlisle?" O'Neil replied, "No. We're a mutual institution that doesn't issue stock. We don't intend to be acquired or targeted for takeover by some large metropolitan-based institution." O'Neil explained that when Shawmut acquired People's Bancorp and closed the Pepperell branch, North Middlesex purchased the building and opened its own branch, which has experienced "tremendous success."
The proposed Carlisle bank building will be located on Bedford Road on the site of the old Saint Irene Church. North Middlesex plans to raze the existing church and construct a new building on the 1.75-acre site. O'Neil was joined by architect Pat Slattery, who brought pictures of the proposed structure. "The building will be patterned after the BankBoston facility in Hollis, New Hampshire," said Slattery. He showed photos of both the Hollis building and the Carlisle Post Office to emphasize the compatible appearance of the adjacent structures.
A map of the proposed site raised some concern among the board members. Planning administrator George Mansfield took exception to the bank parking lot, which was located between the building and Bedford Road. "No other building in the center of Carlisle has a parking lot in front. I'd hate to see this as the first building to require front parking." This prompted member Michael Epstein to inquire as to the number of parking spaces provided. The town zoning bylaws require 6.6 spaces per 1,000 square feet of building. "The proposed building is 54 feet by 54 feet2,916 square feet," said O'Neil. "That requires 20 parking spaces and we've planned for 24." Others suggested that the bank parking lot be linked with the post office to reduce traffic on Bedford Road.
The bylaw review committee, while not recommending that the town change its bylaw to accommodate a bank in the town center outside the business district, has provided a carefully worded model for such a bylaw change if the town so desires. This would allow the board of appeals to authorize, by special permit, additional uses in Residence District A. Although in general agreement, O'Neil takes exception to the time limit of five years on the special permit even though the applicant is allowed to apply for an extension. "In instances where a substantial investment is involved by the service provider, the time limit should not be imposed," stated O'Neil.
Rich Coleman of the bylaw review committee informed Mansfield that the bank bylaw amendment is one of six submitted to the selectmen. The challenge facing O'Neil and the North Middlesex Bank is to ensure that the bank bylaw makes it onto the town Warrant and that townspeople approve it at spring Town Meeting. "If the bylaw amendment were not to pass," concluded O'Neil, "the property could remain idle for an indefinite period and become more unattractive over time. Passage of the bylaw would eliminate a problem that could potentially detract from the appearance of the town center." Fred Lewis of Bedford Road was not all that thrilled with his new neighbor and suggested that O'Neil meet with abutters before becoming too enamored of a bank building on the site.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito