Friday, March 10, 2000
More objections than support for new real estate office
The board of selectmen asked the planning board to review the use of 7 School Street for business purposes. Attorney Howard Speicher attended both this and the previous planning board meetings to plead for Carlson Real Estate, the new occupants. Speicher explained that the realtors didn't know they needed a site plan review and have already moved into the antique home on the corner of Westford Street.
At their last meeting, the board zeroed in on the parking, which accommodates only five cars. Member Michael Abend subsequently drafted a memo to the selectmen outlining these concerns, which he read to the audience.
Abend's memo immediately focuses on the parking problem."The combination of limited parking for the public, some residential parking, stacked parking, the grade of School Street and the need to back out onto School Street, all combine to create a substandard situation," wrote Abend. He continued to say that a reliance on on-street parking may also be a problem since School Street is not wide enough directly in front of the building to accommodate it. The site is up against an awkward intersection close to the rotary, with School Street at a steep grade and no sidewalk. Also, it's not clear how to prevent clients from parking in Senkler's adjacent private parking lot. Posting signs is not an appropriate solution in Abend's opinion.
The memo then reluctantly proposes some ways of alleviating the situation, none of which were palatable to the board. The driveway could be widened, thus paving much of an already small lot. School Street could be widened to provide more parking spaces, taking away some of the Town Green and threatening established trees. A walkway could be added extending along the site frontage, paving what little lawn remains.
Planning administrator George Mansfield distributed a letter from Dr. Andrea Richman, whose dental office is located across the street. Richman believes that those who have served the community for decades should have their interests preserved. She strongly objects to the new real estate office because of the already limited parking available for her patients. "We are open five or six days a week and have approximately 100 patients per week. Most of my clients are Carlisle residents," pleads Richman, "and it would be a serious problem if access to my office were restricted." Neither she nor her staff parks in their private lotthey leave that for patients. Instead, they use spaces on School Street, the same spots identified by Carlson for on-street parking.
Suzanne Drury of Lowell Street voiced surprise that School Street is considered "available for parking" when local residents and people attending church activities, such as fairs and rehearsals, use it heavily. Drury also spoke emotionally about the proximity to the public school and safety of kids.
Both George and Brigitte Senkler reconfirmed their fears of Carlson using their private parking lot and worried that more intense use could overtax an old septic system in a sensitive area.
Attorney Speicher, was nevertheless optimistic about his client's "as of right" to operate a business in the commercially-zoned site. He claimed that there is not a high demand for parking during Carlson's business hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Regarding Senkler's private parking lot, Speicher stated, "I can't guarantee that no one will park there. They can post and tow." He spoke emotionally of resident Louise Baptiste subletting the office for more income. "She cannot afford to spend the tens of thousands of dollars needed to widen the driveway and put in sidewalks."
Maybe Speicher did have a friend in the room. Member Dan Holzman asked the board, "Would it have any impact if you found that a business was there before the church, ATM, or Red Balloon?" This only caused renewed resistance from board members. Mansfield revealed that the driveway where parking is proposed is actually in the residential district and bylaws state that parking must be in the business district. Member Louise Hara worried about the aesthetics of widening the driveway and cutting trees. "The character of the building must be preserved," she pleaded. Chair Bill Tice brought the discussion to a close saying, "We'll wrap it up on March 13."
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito