Friday, April 16, 1999
No support for bank from abutters or planning board
Public hearings on proposed amendments to the Carlisle zoning bylaws dominated the April 12 meeting of the planning board. There was a groundswell of opposition from abutters to the proposed bank and, after a stormy debate, the board voted against the suggested bylaw change. The final decision will rest with voters at Town Meeting.
Vice-president Tony O'Neil of the North Middlesex Bank arrived with a revised drawing of his proposed facility for the site of the old Saint Irene Church on Bedford Road. "It no longer looks like a Pizza Hut," he confided. Unfortunately, he never got to show it to the planning board and soon discovered a new meaning to the word "intransigent."
David Kelch of the bylaw review committee presented the proposed "bank" bylaw change without recommendation. It would add a new section 3.2.5 to Uses Permissable on Special Permit in General Residence District A and allow the location of a bank or monetary institution in that district. Residence District A, not to be confused with a business district, can be viewed as within a 1,500-foot radius around Lady Liberty in the center of town. District A has one-acre zoning and District B, outside the circle, has two-acre zoning. The bylaw would allow a monetary business to operate within District A without the town having to resort to illegal spot zoning.
Anna Donovan of Bedford Road opened the discussion by making it clear that Carlisle has no business district. "Businesses can be in District A or District B," she asserted. Building inspector Bob Koning agreed. "Only those business sites that existed in 1932 are considered commercially zoned. Some are in A, some in B." That settled, it remained for the abutters to state their case.
Phil Drew of Bedford Road put it in simple terms. "The bank is commercial. The site is residential. A 24-hour, seven days a week ATM [Automated Teller Machine]. This is a bad idea." Ron O'Reilly of Bedford Road argued against even the need for a bank. "What is the advantage to the town?" This prompted Donovan to point out that the proposed bylaw would allow a bank to open anywhere in District A. "Why A?" she questioned. "There has never been a distinction before. Are we second class citizens? One acre in A is worth as much as two acres in B. We don't have a good side of town and a bad side of town. The bank will change that." John Lee of Lowell Street added more fuel to the fire by asking, "I'm in District A. Could I sell my property to a competing bank?"
All during this discussion, a dejected O'Neil stood on one side of the Clark Room holding the drawing of his new bank building. Fred Lewis of Bedford Road recalled his meeting with O'Neil as very disturbing and purported that the bank made statements regarding the inevitable commercialization of Carlisle. "Not true!" yelled O'Neil. This prompted Lewis to repeat his attack and only chair Tara Hengeveld's forceful intervention prevented further pandemonium. "We don't deserve this," lamented O'Neil as he returned to his seat.
When calm was finally restored, the board voted 4—0 against the proposed bylaw, with member Michael Epstein abstaining due to his belief that the board of appeals should be involved in the decision since they would issue the special permit.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito