The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 29, 1999


Article 1: Affordable housing

At the spring Town Meeting residents appropriated $30,000 for the planning and design of up to 12 units of affordable housing on the town-owned, 54-acre Conant Land. Two threats in the past couple of years from a developer who wanted to build developments overriding Carlisle's two-acre zoning had prompted residents to reconsider the state's mandate that ten percent of the housing stock be affordable.

This summer, the Carlisle Housing Authority hired Grazado Velleco Architects to study the viability of building 12 units of affordable housing on the Conant Land. Three out of four potential sites were eliminated in an effort to preserve the central portion of the land. In an attempt to avoid blasting and septic system mounds, the authority is planning a total of either five or seven units adjacent to Rockland Road. Percolation tests were conducted and test pits were dug in the likely areas for septic systems and foundations. According to the authority, findings showed favorable percolation rates and little ledge close to the surface. There is concern about the water because methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) has contaminated a number of town center wells. The flow rate at the nearby fire station is good but there is a trace of MTBE (2.2 parts per billion, with the standard set at 70 p.p.b.). Blasting may be necessary to widen Rockland Road.

The architects have made the following recommendations:

· All buildings should be located on under one acre along Rockland Road. Space for yards and a common well increase the site to approximately three acres

· Two or three two-story buildings would contain a total of five to seven housing units.

· The largest building, with a 35-foot by 55-foot foundation (approximately 3,850 square feet), would contain a three-bedroom unit and two two-bedroom units. The shorter dimension would face the street.

· The housing units would not have full basements to avoid blasting.

· The buildings would be placed 60 feet or more from the center of Rockland Road to conform to setback requirements.

· There would be two parking spaces per unit, grouped with no more than two spaces in a row, followed by an intervening green area. Wherever possible, parking areas would be shielded from the street with plantings.


The following estimates, based on selling the seven-unit development, show income is expected to exceed costs by approximately $79,000. Equal consideration is being given to renting the housing; no decision has been made.


$899,000 Construction, including site costs,10 percent contingency

$276,000 Soft costs: construction loan interest, architectural fees, legal fees, and clerk of the works

$1,175,000 Total expenses


$1,009,000 Anticipated sales revenues, based on sale prices of $139,000-$157,000

$70,000 Grant from Federal Home Loan Bank

$175,000 Grant for site work

$1,254,000 Total income

In order to use a portion of the Conant Land for housing, the town will have to adopt the provisions of Mass General Laws, Chapter 40, Section 15A (which provides for the transfer of land for affordable housing), and then vote to transfer the land. Both votes require a simple majority to pass. The housing authority plans to make this request at the Annual Meeting in spring 2000.

Apartments and other parcels

There are about 50 rented apartments in town. Since the accessory apartment bylaw was passed in 1989, there have been nine built. Accessory apartments do not currently count towards the state's ten-percent affordable housing but the 18 units at Carlisle Village Court do. Center resident Gale Constable has done some research and learned that the apartments cannot qualify unless the town becomes part of the Local Initiative Program. Also, it has to become part of the owner's deed for a minimum of five years; a board must perform an annual review; and the rent has to be "affordable" for the renters. (Occupants can spend 25 percent of their income for rent.)

Housing authority chair Marty Galligan said that the only other non-restricted land and potential sites included the Gage Wood Lot which is land-locked, the Town Forest which has wet frontage and Banta-Davis is being used for cemetery and fields and the potential site for school expansion. He said the group had no grants or low-interest loans for the acquisition of parcels.


The need for affordable housing was a recurring theme at the spring Town Meeting but a number of residents objected to siting it on the Conant Land. Abutters and town center residents have been visible and vocal at housing authority meetings to express their desire to preserve the town-owned land in the center of town. To that end, a petition was submitted to the selectmen and included in the Warrant. If Article 6 passes, a conservation restriction would be placed on the Conant Land and it would no longer be a potential site for affordable housing. (See Article 6 on page 1)

Town boards have not voted on the preliminary plan for affordable housing, but they do not support the Conant Land petition at this time.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito