Friday, March 10, 2000
Many hands in the Carriage Way cookie jar
Although the subdivision has not yet been approved, the March 2 public hearing on the possible sale of the town-owned lot on Carriage Way showed that many interests are already staking a claim on the proceeds. According to selectman Vivian Chaput, sale of the lot in the proposed development off East Riding Drive could net the town between $250,000 and $300,000.
Finance committee spokesman Tom Billotta urged that a substantial portion, if not all, of the proceeds should be put in the stabilization fund. "Our ability to do any project will depend on our financial health," he said, noting that $250,000 is a "drop in the bucket" for most land acquisition deals. Billotta also noted that a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting is required to remove money from the stabilization fund for any purpose.
Alluding to recent history, housing authority member Shelley Orenstein said that her group felt possessive about the land and wanted the proceeds to be earmarked for affordable housing. Last year, on land abutting the town parcel, developer Bill Costello floated the idea of a comprehensive permit for a development which would have included houses on lots smaller than allowed by the zoning bylaws in exchange for including a limited number of affordable units. "Affordable housing is supposedly a priority. We have an immediate need in providing affordable housing," said Orenstein. Affordable housing on this particular parcel would be unlikely because the land must be sold as a single-family house lot.
Speaking on behalf of the municipal land committee, selectman Burt Rubenstein said that, up until recently, the committee thought the proceeds should go to future land purchases. Now the committee thinks there should be a reasonable allocation of proceeds between the stabilization fund and future land purchases.
Conservation commission member Carolyn Kiely said that the parcel is very wet and not strategically located, so members of the commission support the sale of the property although no official vote has yet been taken.
Planning board member Kate Reid, speaking as a private citizen, felt that the proceeds should be used to buy other land for affordable housing so the Conant Land does not have to be used for this purpose. Building inspector Bob Koning believed that the money should be deposited in the stabilization fund and then Town Meeting could decide how to use it.
Selectman Michael Fitzgerald clarified that the board of selectmen merely makes a recommendation on the use of the proceeds, but the final decision is up to Town Meeting. Voters should see two related articles on the Warrant in May, the first regarding whether the town should dispose of the property and the second regarding how the town should use the proceeds.
Before the public hearing ended, however, the question arose whether the town is too focused on the proceeds and not enough on the process. According to planning board administrator George Mansfield, the definitive subdivision plan for Carriage Way submitted jointly by Costello and the town (solely as owner of the one lot) requests several waivers. These waivers include extension of the maximum length of the subdivision road, a reduction in open space and a waiver of fees. Mansfield said that these waivers are seen by Costello as a trade-off for giving the town the ability to sell their otherwise land-locked lot. Costello has created on paper a marketable porkchop lot for the town by combining the town's 2.43-acre lot, his own additional acreage and access to the subdivision road.
Calling the trade-off "greasing the skids," ConsCom member Eric Jenssen said that he was uncomfortable with the proposal. He saw the requested waivers as just one step away from a developer being able to vary more egregiously from established subdivision rules by just offering to give the town a marketable lot as part of the deal.
Selectman Doug Stevenson said that the town became involved in the development because it already owned the parcel abutting the subdivision. "The town doesn't have a development policy," he said. Chaput added that, given the circumstances, the board felt a fiduciary duty to pursue the highest and best use of the property.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito