Friday, September 17, 1999
Behind Closed Doors . . . again
The selectmen may have made a wise decision in acquiring the old Saint Irene property, but more than one resident was stunned that the board made an offer and the owner accepted prior to discussing the acquisition at an open meeting.
While board members have said that they needed to act quickly, this parcel has been on the market for years and there has never been any discussion of town interest. The original buyer had planned an assisted living facility there; however that didn't appear to be feasible. The second buyer and current owner, North Middlesex Bank, failed to receive the necessary Town Meeting approval of zoning changes that would have allowed them to proceed with a community bank on the site. The parcel has been on the market since that vote last May.
Admittedly, the Mosquito's bi-weekly summer schedule does make communication more difficult for town officials. However, that schedule was distributed to town offices last spring and reprinted in nearly every issue since then. During the week of our last publication, September 3, no agenda for the board's September 14 meeting was forthcoming. However, on Thursday, September 9, a week we were not publishing and well past the deadline if we had been, a press release was received announcing that the offer had been made and received. The topic was an agenda item for the selectmen's September 14 meeting but who knew?
Although the Mosquito only prints bi-weekly during the summer, all of the selectmen's meetings, as well as other major town boards were covered as usual. The potential purchase of the Saint Irene property was never discussed at an open board of selectmen's meeting. Apparently, the purchase was discussed at municipal land committee meetings, but no formal recommendation was made, and it was the selectmen who took action. One has to wonder how the selectmen as a group came to this decision? Apparently, there were executive sessions and on August 17 they agreed to make the offer. While we believe the board intended to act in the best interest of the town, public discussion had occurred prior to decisions on other properties, such as the White property, so why not this time? And why, once they agreed to make an offer over one month ago, was there no request for public input?
This is a very capable board of selectmen and their volunteer efforts are greatly appreciated. However, this is the same board that decided to hold the pow-wow with finance committee members after the Town Meeting fiasco behind closed doors. Carlisle residents expect open hearings and discussion.
The Bedford Road property is worthy of the town's consideration. It will now be up to voters at the November 2 Town Meeting and November 9 town election to decide if it is appropriate. However, there needs to be a concerted effort to make sure that discussions about this property and other town matters are appropriately in the public eye.
If you've lived in Carlisle more than a couple of years, you know that there are three topics of conversation to be avoided at all costs when chatting with friends and neighbors: religion, politics and affordable housing.
Unfortunately, I've been unable to avoid the first two topics in this space over the last few years, and now feel a responsibility to oblige my fans (and foes) with a triple play. But I won't. Not because I don't know anything about affordable housing. (I once shared a one-bedroom apartment with six people while making $1.75/hour stuffing cushions.) And not because I don't have an opinion on the subject worth sharing. (I'm for it . . . if it's not inconveniently located on land that's too rocky or too wet which pretty much eliminates Carlisle altogether.) It's just that I have something else of more immediate import to address. That subject is money there's just too damn much of it around these days.
Now you may be asking yourself, how can anyone other than Bill Gates have too much money? Money is what makes housing affordable, isn't it?
But I say no. Too much money is what drives up prices and makes affordable housing in Carlisle about as scarce as a liberal Republican. But I'm not going to talk about affordable housingor politics, remember. Instead, I'll simply aver that in today's go-go economy, too many of us have too much money to buy too many gewgaws that we simply don't need. And if we don't stop soon, we'll all end up in a place where the heat is unrelenting . . . and I don't mean Miami.
So how do we know when we have too much money? If some (or all) of the following sound familiar, it may be time to reassess our priorities:
· We buy an SUV the size of a small aircraft carrier because they're safer for the drive to the mall, then plunk down $40K on a BMW Z3 roadster convertible to make the weekend excursions to the Cape more fun.
·We move to Carlisle because of its heralded school system, but send our kids to the Fenn School anyhow for its outstanding extracurricular programs.
·We can't be bothered to collect frequent flyer milesnot even to get the first-class upgrades.
·We hire a landscaper to mow and fertilize our lawns, then spend another two grand on a high-tech treadmill so that we can achieve a perfectly timed and calibrated workout. We use it twice before storing it in the basement.
·Our garage has more square footage than the entire house our parents grew up in.
·We don't bother to drive up to New Hampshire to save sales tax on a new home theater system. Instead, we call Tweeter Etc. and tell them to send over the best one they've got.
· We drop a fifty into the collection plate at church each Sunday, and still feel guilty.
Well, maybe feeling a little guilty isn't so terrible, and perhaps a bit of luxury is OK, too. But if money talks, a little affordable housing chat wouldn't be a bad idea this fall.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito