Friday, April 30, 1999
Article 33 et al: Senior housing bylaw and other articles
This article, placed on the Warrant by petition, would increase the maximum area of an individual unit in a senior residential open space community (SROSC) from 1,400 to 2,400 square feet and reduce the minimum age of the owner/occupant from 62 to 55.
Concord Street resident Judy Pettit, who prepared the petition, explained that the purpose of the change is to help the town stay diversified by making it easier for older people without children to stay in town. Pettit reasoned that the larger square footage would allow a smoother relocation for people leaving larger homes, and that, in most cases, children have already left home by the time the parents have turned 55.
Although the selectmen have as yet taken no official position on the bylaw change, a difference of opinion was expressed. Selectman Vivian Chaput stated that the change violated the original intent of the bylaw which was to provide housing units which were modest in size and scope. "We wanted these units to be reasonably affordable. We didn't want them to be condo mini-mansions,"she said. Chaput also felt that lowering the minimum age requirement would change the focus from elderly housing to exclusive adult condominium communities.
Selectman Doug Stevenson countered by saying that 2,400 square feet does not a mini-mansion make, and that this change seems to be wanted by a number of the town's senior residents. "We want to find ways to keep seniors in town," said Stevenson, noting that senior citizens do not drain town services in the same way families with children do. Stevenson also commented that the overall density of the communities would not change.
The planning board twice attempted to hold a public hearing on the proposed changes, but the petitioners failed to appear."It would be nice to hear why the changes were proposed," said Chaput. Since the petitioners did not feel compelled to attend the public hearing, the planning board did not vote a recommendation.
Article 34: Quinn Bill provisions
Article 34, placed on the Warrant by citizen petition, asks the town to adopt the provisions of the Quinn Bill which would give union and non-union employees in the police department additional pay, based on education. The town would apply for state reimbursement of one-half of the benefits paid to the employees. Selectmen have not supported the proposal because of the potential lack of state funding and lag in payment. They are also concerned that because negotiations are underway, if the article passes, the police could be paid under the current contract and Quinn Bill, negatively impacting the town budget.
The police union would like to receive the benefits under the bill, which they say are 50 percent greater than those under the current Educational Incentive Program. As for potential problems with state funding, the union has said they will release the town from any obligation to pay for more than its share and to take a $21,000 decrease in wage and benefits the first year the provisions are adopted.
This issue has been the subject of negotiations and selectmen hoped it could be resolved by Town Meeting. FinCom does not recommend approval of this article.
Article 35: Cell tower moratorium
This article, placed on the Warrant by petition, would impose a six-month moratorium on the granting of permits for wireless communications facilities. Paul Gill, the author of the petition, explained that the purpose of the bylaw is to increase public awareness of cell tower issues, ensure more open dialog with town residents and form an advisory committee to perform a comprehensive study of the proposals and recommend possible bylaw changes.
The planning board supports the moratorium, but the selectmen have voiced concerns. "I'm not sure we need a moratorium," said Chaput. "We can do everything now without it since we already have a decent bylaw that gives the public reasonable protection." Selectman Michael Fitzgerald agreed. "Every safeguard is already in place. The board of appeals has the power to evaluate each application and seek public input." However, selectman Doug Stevenson felt that the more time the town has, the better, providing it did not leave the town open to a lawsuit. "Absent the legal issue," said Stevenson, "I don't see why there's opposition to a six-month moratorium."
Town counsel Paul DeRensis advised the selectmen that he did not believe the moratorium was legal, although planning board administrator George Mansfield reported that his conversations with town counsel revealed that short moratoriums are presently being approved by the state attorney general's office.
The selectmen agreed that they have serious concerns about Article 35 as presented and will make a full report at Town Meeting after review by town counsel. The planning board was very much in favor of the moratorium and suggested a possible extension to one year.
Article 36: Lease of town land for cell towers
This article would authorize the board of selectmen to lease certain town land (Foss Farm, Banta-Davis, Conant Land and/or the DPW yard) to a wireless communications carrier or carriers for a period of up to 20 years for the purpose of installing a cell tower and related equipment.
Administrator David DeManche emphasized that this article merely gives the selectmen the power to enter into a lease of the town land specified in the request for proposals (RFP) published earlier this year. The selectmen decided to send out the RFP to have more control over the location of cell towers and to give the town the opportunity to benefit from rent payments from the cellular phone companies. The article does not allow the construction of any cell towers, for which a special permit from the board of appeals must be granted. Selectmen unanimously recommend this article.
Special Town Meeting - Article 1: School septic system
This article was placed on the Warrant at the last minute to provide additional funds for the repair of the Carlisle School septic system. Plans for the repair call for a new leaching field on the Banta-Davis Land but work has been delayed for three years due to litigation brought by abutters Phyllis and Timothy Landers. Although a recent finding by the state Department of Environmental Protection was in favor of the town, the Landerses responded by filing another suit on April 16. Since this is expected to cause another significant delay, school officials have indicated that this article will not be moved.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito