The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 21, 1999


Using Some Creativity

It was clear from the vote at the May 4 Town Meeting that there was overwhelming support for the affordable housing article that appropriated $30,000 to be spent on the planning and design of building "up to twelve units of affordable housing on the town-owned Conant Land." There was an effort to amend the article so as not to limit the housing to just the Conant Land site, but it was ruled as "outside the scope of the article" by moderator Marshall Simonds.

While voters were eager to begin to comply with the 10 percent state-mandated affordable housing law, many in the audience who know the Conant Land in the center of town voiced their concerns about the site. These concerns are understandablethere is lots of ledge on the property; it was bought for public water supply purposes (one of the stated reasons for purchasing the land in 1974); access to the housing would be from Rockland Road, a small dead-end road that runs into busy Westford Street (Route 225). Finally, this piece of open space, which is scarce in the center of town, has many beautiful steep rocks which hikers can enjoy but could be dangerous to children who might live in the housing if it were built.

Whether you are in favor of affordable housing or not, certainly one of the factors pushing this project ahead is the fear of a comprehensive permit that allows developers to ignore local zoning as long as 25 percent of available lots are dedicated to affordable housing. This would allow them, on the remaining 75 percent of the development, to build bigger houses on smaller lots. It's no mystery that the builder will be focused on building the 75 percent "unaffordable" homes where he'll make all of his profit. And certainly Carlisleans don't want developers telling us what to do with our land.

So, as we move ahead with affordable housing, it is my hope that if the Conant Land proves too expensive to build on and inappropriate, that the affordable housing committee will use some creativity in coming up with an alternate site. This would mean working collaboratively with other town committees using the updated Open Space and Recreation Plan to identify other lands that might come on the market, which would be more suitable for this endeavor.

As the Boston Globe reported in its real estate section on Saturday, an older couple in Weston has donated land to a non-profit developer to build affordable housing. The land was donated as part of an estate plan so the couple's children can avoid $1 million in inheritance taxes.

We here in Carlisle need to find ways to be more imaginative in meeting the state's 10 percent affordable housing regulations. We need to do this now, before it's too late.

Taking Stock Options in Life

Having recently passed the half century mark on this earth, I've come to more fully appreciate those aspects of life that are truly important: a loving family, good friends, and a huge 401K stock portfolio. While I've done fairly well on the first two parts, my life has only recently become devoted to this third goal, having spent much of my youth involved in such lucrative activities as cushion stuffing (somebody's got to do it), waiting tables, and running a folk nightclub, although some would argue that this latter occupation is about as close to retirement as one can get while still, technically, working.

But last week a good friend of mine, who I'll refer to as Dennis because that's his name, awoke me to reality by bringing up the "R" word during an innocent conversation about the high failure rate of computer systems projects, one of which he is responsible for. Evidently, the pressures of delivering a product that actually works has Dennis thinking about tossing aside the daily grind of meetings and deadlines for one of full-time reading, writing and beer, not necessarily in that order. After I had a good chuckle (since he and I have been on the same salary track for the last fifteen years and the likelihood of an Irishman out-saving a Jew are about the same as Slobodan Milosevic inviting a Kosovar refugee over for tea), he revealed that indeed he was tantalizingly close to that goal, thanks to an incredibly robust stock market

. . . and a wife who had the good sense to fund their 401K regularly for the last 20 years.

Since our retirement discussion, I've talked to another half dozen people with near-term goals similar to Dennis's, only most are approaching 40, not 60, or even 50. Now, I've worked in the high-tech industry for more than 18 years and in that time I've noticed that a subtle change has taken place. In the early 1970s, people entered the industry with the goal of joining a successful start-up and becoming rich enough to retire early. But today, things are different. Instead of holding these lofty expectations, young people are now entering the industry with the simple goal of finding a successful start-up and becoming rich enough to buy the Patriots, build them a new downtown stadium and retire to a 12-room beach bungalow on Tahiti, preferably before the age of 25. At 25, I was scrounging money just to buy two tickets to a game, not the whole team. And rich was getting a $1,000 bonus.

I guess the 10-year run of prosperity we've been fortunate enough to experience is bound to change expectations of the young and still impressionable. I just hope that in their zeal to make the big score, young folks of today don't lose sight of two critically important lessons: 1) friends and family still come before a bulging 401K portfolio; and 2) ask for a lot of stock options.


1999 The Carlisle Mosquito