The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 7, 2000


Planning board puts finishing touches on bylaw changes for Warrant

The Carlisle Planning Board was established to "hear and decide the applications for special permits for the use of land and/or buildings." This was not obvious on March 27 where most of the meeting was spent agonizing over the wording of four zoning bylaw Warrant articles being sponsored by the board.

After they had dispatched all of the traditional planning board business, members dug in for several hours of mind-numbing Warrant article bylaw word-crafting. Sentence by sentence, they reviewed Article 23 - Senior Residential Open Space Community (SROSC); Article 24 - Site Plan Review; Article 25 - Lot Regularity; and Article 26 - Personal Wireless Service Facilities (affectionately known as cell towers).

Senior Residential Open Space Community

After struggling for some time over the size of each SROSC dwelling unit, members Kate Reid and Michael Abend decided to limit the size of the building instead and let the units be defined by supply and demand. Each building in the SROSC can have no more than four dwelling units averaging no more than two bedrooms each (three bedrooms max), and no building can measure over 6,000 square feet. This includes the area within the building that may be devoted to garage spaces.

That decided, the tricky part comes with the age limitation. Lowering the qualifying age from 62 to 55 may appeal to "empty-nesters," but it also includes many late-bloomers whose nests aren't empty or those prolific old birds who are still hatching eggs. Thus, the board requires that no resident of a dwelling unit can be under the age of 18, unless otherwise provided for in the condominium deeds. But what if the qualifying person over 55 dies? Is the under-55 spouse forced to move out? What happens when a gentleman of 55 marries a younger woman and they have a baby? Do they get evicted? If they're allowed to stay, will the senior community eventually take on the appearance of a day care center?

Lest the planning board be accused of throwing mothers and babies out into the street, members included a modifying clause stating that, in the event that there is no longer a qualifying resident in a unit, a two-year exemption shall be allowed for the transfer of the unit to another eligible household.

Site plan review

The site plan review bylaw change is less controversial. Member Michael Epstein summarized Article 24 that seeks to replace section 7.6 of the zoning bylaws. The board will do a site plan review of each municipal project, a practice that's normal in other towns. Any person desiring approval of a site plan must submit the plan to the selectmen and planning board. This will now include construction of a new building or construction of an addition or alteration, the principal use of which is non-residential. The establishment of a principal non-residential use in an existing building, not theretofore used for such purposes, is also included.

The proposed site plan review will also be required for construction or alteration of municipal parking, cultural, recreational, water supply or protective uses, which covers just about everything else.

Lot regularity

Planning board members Louise Hara and Kate Reid have been working on a bylaw amendment that would establish requirements for "lot regularity." This will be submitted as an article in the Warrant, "to see if the town will vote to amend the zoning bylaws by amending Section 4.1.3 (Lot Shape Requirements in General Residence District B) to provide for improved control of irregularly-shaped residential lots." Westford and Groton presently apply a "coefficient of regularity" to prohibit irregularly-shaped lots. Carlisle does have some restrictions for lot regularity, such as a minimum width of 40 feet up to the building site, a minimum depth of 40 feet along 80 percent of the frontage, and the circle/ellipse requirement. These are not completely effective as seen in some recent applications before the board that create the required minimum land area by using "rat-tails" to remote wetlands.

Hara and Reid would add a new section stating that the shape of all lots shall conform to the following requirement:


Where A = lot area in square feet

and P = lot perimeter in feet

The coefficient of regularity is calculated by multiplying the lot area by 16 and dividing the result by the lot perimeter squared. The number, which is a dimensionless coefficient, must be greater than 0.4 to qualify. A perfect square has a coefficient of 1.0. For example, a two-foot by two-foot square has an area of four. Four multiplied by 16 is 64. The perimeter is eight. Eight squared equals 64. Dividing one by the other equals a coefficient of 1. As the lot becomes more irregular, the coefficient drops. A two by four rectangle equals a coefficient of 0.88. The 0.4 limit corresponds to a rectangle of two by sixteen.

The formula may be applied only to that portion of the lot that conforms to the minimum dimensional requirements of the bylaw (frontage and area), thus allowing greater irregularity on large parcels where that irregularity is not used to meet minimum requirements. The planning board may waive this requirement if it determines that a less stringent requirement will result in a better potential house siting, less environmental damage or better land use.

There is a second section to the lot shape bylaw. "The formula works with regular shaped lots," explained Hara, "but it doesn't work with pork chop lots." This required a new section stating, "Any area of a lot that is less than 40 feet wide and any area that is separated from the site of the dwelling thereon by a portion of the lot that is less than 40 feet wide cannot be used in the calculation of the minimum area required by This shall not apply to lots of record on the effective date of this section of the zoning bylaw."

Cell towers

The rest of the evening was spent on Article 26 which modifies the cell tower bylaw approved at the last Town Meeting. Board members were joined at the head table by wireless applications advisory committee (WAAC) originator Paul Gill and chair Rick Blum. Key sentences were tightened with carefully chosen words, entire paragraphs were deleted, and then more words were re-arranged and paragraphs added back. "The Warrant book goes out for printing next week," barked Epstein at those in the group who were flagging. Over them all was the spectre of a 150-foot cell tower behind the Dave Duren residence on Bedford Road.

Midnight approached before the board finally put down their pencils. Epstein, one last time, went through the countdown to Warrant publication.

The next scheduled meeting of the planning board is April 10.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito