The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 1, 1999


Path discussions dominate conservation commission's agenda

Should the town legitimize an antique road as a modern public way? That million-dollar question continues to plague the Carlisle Conservation Commission.

Resident Walter Flannery and his son presented a series of maps at the September 23 meeting to demonstrate that today's old cart path running past William and Margie McCormick's house on Bellows Hill Road was yesterday's public roadway. Flannery owns 13 acres with an easement to Baldwin Road. Without a road to provide him with legal frontage, however, he would never be able to subdivide his land and profit from housing development.

The Flannery evidence was compelling enough that the ConsCom decided to request that town counsel determine the status of the dirt path.

At the September 9 meeting, the commission heard testimony regarding the old cart path. The old road crosses the town-owned Sachs-Greenway Land, the Flannery property, the town-owned Carr Conservation Land, and finally the McCormicks' lawn and driveway to Bellows Hill. The McCormicks purchased their home in 1997, and 47 of their 49 acres are under conservation restriction. The Hill and Barlow law firm, engaged by the McCormicks and the Sachses, have researched the issue and presented evidence that the antique path is not a public way.

"We're waiting on a decision from town counsel on whether this is a road or not," said ConsCom chair Jo Rita Jordan in a telephone interview, "but, whatever that decision, I don't think it is ever going to become a town road."

"We're waiting on a decision from town counsel on whether this is a road or not," said ConsCom chair Jo Rita Jordan in a telephone interview, "but, whatever that decision, I don't think it is ever going to become a town road. I would say there is no chance of this becoming frontage."

To further confuse the issue, many people have used the path as a trail in the last decade to access the various pieces of conservation land. It's important to note that owners of land under conservation restriction are not required by law to let the public use any part of it. The McCormicks elected to relocate the trail to cross the edge of their property in the past year rather than have people pass so close to their house. The public is only allowed use of the trail due to the McCormicks' continued good will.

Master plan for pathways

Kristine Bergenheim of the pedestrian and bike safety committee presented an update on the proposed plan to build footpaths near major roads in town. The group hopes to fund the effort through three sources: state grants, tax-deductible contributions to the non-profit Carlisle Pathways Fund, and a creative approach to collect fees from developers excused from building sidewalks.

The Carlisle Planning Board often waives the sidewalk requirement for new developments. The pedestrian and bike safety committee would like to see a developer that receives such a waiver contribute 75 percent of the projected sidewalk cost to the Carlisle Pathways Fund. The town counsel is reviewing the legality of this proposal.

"The plan offers a good alternative," explained Bergenheim. "The developer saves money, and the town can fund its footpaths."

Bergenheim said that the committee hopes not to use asphalt on the footpaths to the visible relief of commission members. "We'd like to use non-toxic materials and keep the town's rural feel," she said. "The costs are a little higher for these surfaces."

Commissioner Tricia Smith pointed to the Minuteman Trail in Concord as a wonderful example of an eco-friendly surface. "It's a wonderful trail with excellent wetland crossings," said Smith. "It is possible to cross wetlands with minimal impact."

As asphalt is the cheapest material available, the committee's ability to raise funds will determine the type of pathways this town will have.

Concord Street plans required

Resident Theonie Mark of 328 Concord Street appeared with a request relating to the subdivision of her property. She asked that ConsCom allow a small amount of grading in the wetland buffer zone relating to the construction of a new septic system in the proposed house lot. The septic system already has Carlisle Board of Health approval, and an ellipse identified for construction of the new house for the Carlisle Planning Board. Mark received approval from the board of appeals in the spring to subdivide her property and retain a pool on her lot, although it will impinge three feet into a lot-line variance of the new subdivision.

Despite all this groundwork, Mark has not identified the exact location of the new house. Due to the amount of wetlands on the property, ConsCom members were reluctant to approve the septic grading without knowing where the house would go.

"I'd hate for you to put in a septic system and not be able to use it," said Jordan. "If we approve just your septic system, there's a chance that we may not approve your house."

Although Mark said she'd be willing to take that risk, other commission members did not feel inclined to let her.

"This is very non-standard," said Smith. "It's forcing the commission to accept piecemeal development. We need a plan for the whole thing. We want to know the full effect of the house and septic system on the wetlands."

"We need to have the footprint of the house," echoed Jordan. "It's just an insufficient plan." The committee unanimously agreed.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito