Friday, November 5, 1999
Town election is canceled
Since the proposal to purchase the former Saint Irene property clearly failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority at Tuesday night's Town Meeting, the November 9 special town election will be unnecessary. The only question on the ballot had requested an exemption from the limits imposed by Proposition 2-1/2 to fund the purchase.
Selectman Vivian Chaput had described the town center property on 72 Bedford Road as a "rare commodity" and wanted residents to invest now in the site for future municipal needs. She reiterated potential uses as a senior/community center, senior/affordable housing, parking, open space and park land. Westford Street resident Hal Sauer gave an impassioned plea to purchase the parcel before the opportunity is lost forever and urged voters to "consider it from the perspective of 10 to 50 years from now."
The price tag for the 1.75-acre lot was $290,000 including demolition, engineering and legal work and that appeared to be a major stumbling block. The finance committee did not recommend the purchase citing "no compelling reason," a near 13-percent increase in the tax rate, a tight budget for the upcoming fiscal year and word that state officials were concerned with the town's level of long-term debt. Other residents claimed the price seemed too high for a lot limited to a four-bedroom septic system capacity and with a questionable water supply. Hearing repeated questions about the water and septic, some voters said that although they had intended to support the purchase, given the limited uses, they decided it was a bad idea. "Sell it to someone who can build a four-bedroom house and collect $5,000 a year in taxes," advised Kerry Kissinger of Elizabeth Ridge Road.
Residents also seemed to think Tim Fohl of South Street raised a valid point when he said, "It's a nice idea to put everything in the center, but it's an ecological disaster."
In the end, while 210 voters were in favor of the purchase and 168 were opposed, the measure failed to carry the necessary two-thirds majority. For the time being, North Middlesex Bank, which failed to receive approval last spring for a bank on the site, will remain owner of the property.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito