The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 24, 1999


Planning board balks at footpath-or-fee proposal

Hurricane Floyd may have given up some of its power by the time it reached Carlisle, but the planning board does not intend to suffer the same fate. A bike/pedestrian safety committee plan to circumvent the board's authority to waive sidewalks received a stormy reception at the September 13 meeting.

Safety committee members Deb Belanger and Kristine Bergenheim appeared before the planning board to present their plan for creating a trust fund for bike and pedestrian paths throughout town. The selectmen at their August 24 meeting had voted to establish the trust for the purpose of funding public relations, a master footpath plan feasibility study, and construction projects to help in the bicycle and pedestrian safety committee's goal of making Carlisle a safe walkable community. At the time, selectmen chair Doug Stevenson warned that the safety committee might be setting up a situation where they are competing with the planning board's negotiating points. The planning board concurred.

Belanger requested that the rules and regulations be modified to force the planning board to require developers to build bike/footpaths or place 75 percent of the sidewalk costs into the Carlisle Pathway Trust. This requirement would apply not only to subdivision roads and conservation clusters, but also common driveways. If the board felt that sidewalks were not feasible due to environmental impact or topographical limitations, they would no longer have the option of waiving the sidewalk requirement.

"Every rule and regulation is waivable at the reasonable discretion of the board," asserted acting chair Michael Epstein. "The board will always retain the right to waive." David Freedman of Hutchins Road countered, "If you allow the option of a waiver, then the developer knows he can bargain for a waiver." Member Michael Abend could foresee some unintended consequences. "What if the developer insists on building the sidewalks, even if detrimental to the environment. We would have no recourse. I think you have gone too far."

Belanger agreed that the sidewalk requirement may not be necessary for some common driveways, but developers would still have to pay into the trust to fund pathways in other locations. Anne Marie Brako of West Street didn't mince words. "I'm appalled at how you continue to approve these developments without sidewalks. There are huge safety issues," she argued. "A common driveway may not need a sidewalk, but West Street would benefit from monies paid to the trust fund." Member Louise Hara exclaimed, "We're not against safety!"

Epstein calmed everyone down by suggesting that the bike/pedestrian committee talk with town counsel about the legal ramifications of the trust fund. "Can we extract a fee to fund sidewalks at other sites?" he asked. "If so, then you'll need to go to Town Meeting and change the zoning bylaws."

Costello's plans and the

sidewalk dilemma

Developer Bill Costello attended the board meeting for a review of his preliminary subdivision plan for Carriage Way located at 314 East Street. Costello has a way of attracting abutters to the planning board meetings and they were out in force on Monday night. He proposes to build nine houses on a cul-de-sac and provide the town with a tenth lot suitable for building. Joe March of Stamski and McNary displayed a map of the subdivision and explained the details of the tenth lot.

The town owns a previously inaccessible 2.43-acre lot, which March labels as X1. Costello plans to donate a 1.75-acre parcel known as X2. The two parcels contain a total of 4.18 acres and thus meet the four-acre pork chop lot requirement. A small stub of land (X3), which also provides access to the cul-de-sac, connects them. In return, Costello only asks that six waivers be granted. Member Michael Abend had stated at a previous meeting that he did not consider these waivers to be a problem.

Belanger did not agree. "I request that the sidewalk waiver [to not install sidewalks] be denied," she declared. This made no sense to planning board member Dan Holzman. "This will be a private roadway. Does that mean that the sidewalks are private too? Only Carriage Way residents can walk on the sidewalks?" After a flurry of discussion, it appeared that the sidewalk indeed would not be open to the public. This embarrassing disclosure added fuel to the planning board argument against the proposed sidewalk mandate.

Basu Sarkar of East Riding Drive had other problems on his mind. "Has there been a hydrological survey of underground water?" he asked. Receiving a negative answer, Sarkar disclosed that a neighbor ran out of water during the recent drought. He counts 22 homes on East Riding Drive between East and Brook Streets. The addition of ten more houses not only means a greater demand on the aquifer, but also increased traffic for local residents. Planning administrator George Mansfield advised Sarkar that the board of health would focus on the water question. Increased traffic is a recognized problem in the town as well as the whole Boston area.

Acting chair Epstein requested that the board solicit input on the proposed development from the fire chief, police chief, and department of public works. The board scheduled a site walk for September 21 and they will continue the preliminary subdivision plan review at the next board meeting.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito