The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 31, 2000


Housing authority and board of appeals start talk of comprehensive permit

On Thursday, March 23, the Carlisle Housing Authority met with the board of appeals to provide an update on the proposed affordable housing development on the Conant Land off Rockland Road. At issue is the need for a comprehensive permit to circumvent the town's two-acre zoning laws.

Town counsel Katherine Palmer, also in attendance, provided legal advice and perspective based on her experiences with affordable housing across the state.

Seven colonial-style units

Housing authority chair Marty Galligan presented sketches and a schematic of the proposed development which includes five two-bedroom units (each 1,007 square feet) and two three-bedroom units (each 1,280 square feet). The sketches show colonial-style units consistent with surrounding Carlisle architecture. Two or three units will be market rate and the rest will be affordable. This ratio of market rate to affordable is consistent with developments in surrounding communities.

Galligan then outlined the steps needed to make it happen. At Town Meeting in May, the housing authority will request that 3.5 acres of the town-owned Conant Land be transfered to a non-profit corporation, Carlisle Affordable Housing Inc. If that is accomplished, the next six to nine months will then be taken up with fundraising. A total of $950,000 needs to be raised through a variety of sources. If all goes as planned, construction could begin by the spring of 2001.

Hal Sauer, a member of both boards, mentioned that Carlisle health regulations, which are stricter than state regulations, may be an issue when pursuing a comprehensive permit. Town regulations require more land for septic systems to provide for the existence of garbage grinders, although the proposed units will have no grinders. The housing authority hopes to conform to the less stringent state regulations.

Palmer noted that it is very difficult for the town to refuse a comprehensive permit for affordable housing, because the laws were designed to overcome local obstacles, and adherence to town regulations is not required. The proposed development will conform to town laws for setbacks and other zoning requirements.

Midge Eliassen of the board of appeals confessed that the town's rules for comprehensive permits have not been reviewed in about 15 years, and that she needs time to "dig through them." Chair Terry Herndon described the situation as an opportunity "to come up with a plan and look at the rules [for issuing comprehensive permits] in a non-adversarial situation" and "provide a model for future affordable housing initiatives that may come from developers." He added, "Developers are under a time constraint and if we can guide them and give them information, they're more likely to cooperate." When a suggestion was made for a "preferential versus non-preferential track" to encourage developers to work with the town, Palmer advised that some towns enact bylaw changes to minimize confrontation between developers and townspeople opposed to affordable housing.

All present agreed that the process will take time, but if done right, could save a lot of headaches in the future. Galligan noted that deadlines for grant applications cluster around the month of October and most require that a comprehensive permit be in place.

Palmer provided further insight by discussing some of the affordable housing litigation she had been involved with, including one town that has generated two filing cabinets full of documents in its ongoing resistance to affordable housing. She also mentioned that, while Carlisle is at last welcoming affordable housing, some other affluent towns, especially on Nantucket and the Cape, are beginning to look at affordable housing as a way to ensure "there is someone there to man the fire station" as rising housing prices force out the people who have been the backbone of the community.

Open meeting

The housing authority will hold an open meeting on April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall. All interested residents are invited to review the sketches and schematics and to provide their input on the proposed affordable housing development.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito