The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 27, 1999

Can the Conant Land afford housing?

To the Editor:

After reading the 8/13/99 Mosquito articles regarding the housing authority, and having attended numerous housing meetings, I am compelled to add needed information. This story failed to raise a single hard question.

Though most would support the need for affordable housing, not everyone is pleased that the Conant Land is again under consideration. Since the Conant Land was purchased for "municipal purposes," the fire station, police station, and, most recently, the Town Hall have been placed on this land. Because the land belongs to the town, and is "free," this site is once again under scrutiny.

Nonetheless, building on the Conant terrain will be extremely costly for the town even with possible grant monies. Extensive wetlands, vernal pools and glacial rock formations, like Castle Rock, dot the landscape. Building on bedrock requires blasting. Blasting leads to other complications which will further impact the aquifer and delicate ecosystem.

The town center has serious, unresolved water problems. Additional pressure on the water table from both the building and operation of housing units could create further problems for the center and abutters. On this note, there are no plans for a needed water study on the site as this is not the charge of the committee, according to chairperson Marty Galligan.

The committee's responsibility is to find a site(s) and begin the Herculean task of meeting the 10 percent affordable housing quota mandated by the state. Of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, only 24 communities have come close to, or surpassed this 10 percent, and these are almost entirely metropolitan. What people need to understand is that the Conant proposal is just the tip of the iceberg. The town has selected the Conant site for housing by promoting the myth that it will keep the developers at bay. Ten percent would translate to approximately 160 affordable housing units throughout the town. Until Carlisle meets this 10 percent quota, the developers will not be stopped even though we are showing "good faith" toward diminishing the required percentage. We have a long way to go and an affordable project of rental properties on Conant is analogous to hitting a fly with a sledgehammer.

More investigation is needed on this complicated issue. As suggested by the committee, units should be a combination of affordable and market price. Additionally, they should be integrated throughout town so that they are not identifiable as "affordable." We should ask our selectmen and planning board to promote town by-laws to lead the way, and demand that affordable housing be incorporated into new developments. Let's not allow the fear of developer(s) to dictate what we should do.

Janet Veves
195 Rockland Road

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito