Friday, September 24, 1999
Center residents vent concerns about Conant affordable housing
The Clark Room was packed with town center residents on September 14 when housing authority chair Marty Galligan and advisor Ed Sonn gave the selectmen an update on the authority's proposal to build affordable housing on the Conant Land. Nearly all those who spoke voiced concerns about the effect of a development on what the neighbors consider a fragile water supply in the center.
Galligan first outlined the development he believes is most supportable on engineering and economic grounds. He said that the authority is focusing on a development of five units in two or three buildings on Rockland Road. Engineering data eliminated three other potential sites in the interior of the Conant Land. Galligan said that five units would be economically feasible if they were sold rather than rented by the town, although this would give the town much less control over the management of the units. The selectmen encouraged Galligan to further evaluate the merits of ownership versus rental.
The discussion then turned to permissible uses of the Conant Land. Sonn confirmed that, contrary to popular belief, neither the original Warrant article nor the deed to the town stated the use of the property for general municipal purposes. Listed uses included police station, fire station, town offices, public works and public water supply. On the other hand, Sonn pointed out that there were no restrictions on use of the land for housing, said Sonn. Galligan related a proposal by Lowell Street residents John and Annette Lee to couple a Warrant article transferring a portion of the Conant Land for the development of affordable housing with a restriction on developing the interior of the parcel. Selectmen were reluctant to forego future uses of the property.
"I'm speechless," said Annette Lee. "I can understand your feelings that you don't want to tie up the Conant Land, but if ever there was a place that needed conservation land it is the center. This is our greenbelt, our backyard." John Lee added, "All of us in the center have polluted water due to activity in the center over the last ten years." Linda Meyers-Tierney of Lowell Street also worried about impact on the water system. "We are looking to the selectmen to do the appropriate water studies to protect the fragile ecology in the center," she said.
Center residents were also concerned about the need for expansion of the Town Hall and fire station. "You're building on pockets of land with no possibility of expansion," said Rockland Road resident George Fardy. Sonn indicated that the plans for Town Hall anticipated expansion over the parking lot, which would potentially require moving parking spaces over the leaching field. The fire station could be expanded to add additional stories.
"The board is very sensitive to the types of impact to the center," responded selectman chair Doug Stevenson, adding that the audience had some legitimate concerns. Sonn proffered, however, that if the town's long-term goal is to have distributed affordable housing, the town needs to be building small developments such as the one proposed on the Conant Land. "Clearly it is a priority to get other land for this purpose, too," he added.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito