Friday, May 28, 1999
Bank to sell old church site but reconsidering center location
North Middlesex Savings Bank has cancelled its plans to build a bank at the site of the old Saint Irene Church on Bedford Road and has listed the property for sale. Admitting defeat, bank vice-president Tony O'Neill said, "There is never going to be a bank at that location. It is just not going to fly. Now it is time to move ahead."
On the last night of Town Meeting, May 11, voters defeated the zoning bylaw change which would have allowed a bank to operate at the site. The property is located in a residential district and a change in the zoning bylaw was required for operation of the business on that site. The Warrant article failed to garner the required two-thirds vote of support, but approximately half of the voters did not object (102 in favor, 108 opposed).
While O'Neill said that he is still recovering from Town Meeting, he was pleasantly surprised about the close vote. "After the public hearing, I didn't think that we were going to get more than 20 votes," said O'Neill, referring to the strenuous objections voiced primarily by abutters at the planning board hearing and the lack of a favorable recommendation by either the planning board or selectmen. O'Neill said that he understood and appreciated the feelings expressed by abutters, and that even if the bylaw amendment had passed, he would have held off development until he had further meetings with concerned citizens.
In fact, O'Neill has not given up the prospect of locating his bank in Carlisle Center. The vice-president interpreted the Town Meeting vote to mean that townspeople are not necessarily opposed to a bank in the center but were just unwilling to have it located outside the business district. "If it were just a vote on a bank or no bank in the center, there wouldn't have been a problem," suggested O'Neill.
Possible Lowell Street site
Accordingly, O'Neill is meeting with the Daisy family next week to discuss the possibility of locating the bank at the site of the defunct garage on Lowell Street adjacent to Daisy's Market. That property is zoned for commercial use and would not require the bank to request a bylaw change to operate there. "I never will go through that process again," sighed a shell-shocked O'Neill. This property, however, is also in the historic district.
If the bank were to open up shop at the Lowell Street site, said O'Neill, the operation would be smaller in scale than that originally planned for the Bedford Road property. It would not be a full-service bank but would still have human elements including a manager, assistant manager and a few tellers.
Originally, North Middlesex Savings Bank became interested in Carlisle upon hearing that the building that currently houses the BankBoston automatic teller machine was on the market. When the bank found that the buyer would be required to continue to operate the ATM for BankBoston, that option was no longer viable. Next, North Middlesex bank officials began negotiations with the Daisy family to site the bank at the garage, but, according to O'Neill, were distracted when the Saint Irene property became available.
Regarding the sale of the Bedford Road property, O'Neill said that the bank is not in the business of holding property for investment and does not expect to turn a profit on the sale, given the significant outlay for the project already. On the other hand, said O'Neill, "We are not under heavy pressure to sell."
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito