The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 28, 2000


Planning board bylaw revisions and Carriage Way lot sale

Article 23 - Senior residential community

The planning board is seeking to make a couple of changes to the existing bylaws for the Senior Residential Open Space Community (SROSC) to make it more attractive for developers. Existing rules limit each dwelling unit to 1,400 square feet, with no more than four units located in a 4,800-square foot building, (maximum excluding garage spaces). Each dwelling unit must be occupied by at least one person over the age of 62.

The planning board proposes to limit only the size of the building and let the size of 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 (with a three-bedroom maximum per unit), and no building can measure over 6,000 square feet, including garage spaces.

At the April 24 planning board hearing, Baldwin Road resident Ralph Anderson questioned whether a 6,000-foot building divided into two units could be considered affordable. Member Michael Abend responded that both providing senior housing and making it affordable are goals of the bylaw. As it stands, because prospective buyers want larger units with space for entertaining and storage, neither objective is being met. By making this change, the board hopes more senior housing will be built so that empty-nesters can and will remain in town.

The more controversial part of the bylaw change comes with the age limitation. Article 23 proposes to lower the qualifying age from 62 to 55 in order to appeal to "empty-nesters," but that might include residents whose nest isn't empty. To prevent this, the amendment requires that no resident of a dwelling unit can be under the age of 18, unless otherwise provided for in the condominium deed. The proposed age limits create a dilemma, since couples of qualifying age will be young enough to still have kids in high school. What happens when a man of qualifying age marries a younger woman and they have a young child? Do they get evicted? Lest the planning board be accused of throwing mothers and babies out into the street, they included a modifying clause stating that in the event that residents of a unit no longer qualify, a two-year exemption shall be allowed for the transfer of the unit to another eligible household.

At Monday's hearing, municipal land committee member Jane Anderson, said that after reflecting on the MLC's concerns about the age requirement, she suggested setting one age, perhaps 55, and not allow anyone who is younger to live there. The board responded that while that might avoid possible evictions, they wanted to allow caretakers and younger spouses. They believed that adding the two-year exemption gave residents time to prepare and sell the unit.

Article 24 - Site review

The site plan review bylaw seeks to replace section 7.6 of the zoning bylaws. If approved, the planning board will do a site plan review of all non-residential projects, including municipal structures. Any person desiring approval of a site plan must submit the plan to the selectmen and planning board. This includes construction of a new building or construction of an addition or alteration, the principal use of which is non-residential. Also included is the establishment of a principal non-residential use in an existing building that wasn't used for such purposes before.

The new bylaw also targets more intensive non-residential uses, such as recent plans for a real estate office at 7 School Street. Site plan approval is necessary if there will be an increase in parking, number of employees or pedestrian access to the site. Any construction involving multi-family housing also triggers a site plan review. The planning board will issue a report and recommendation at the completion of each site plan review, but only the selectmen have the power to grant final approval.

The Gleason Library underwent a site plan review by the planning board last year and found it very useful, especially in dealing with the limited number of parking spaces. The proposed site plan will also be required for construction or alteration of municipal parking and space for cultural, recreational, water supply or protective use.

Resident Ralph Anderson said that it was unclear whether the review would be necessary for residents' accessory buildings, such as barns and greenhouses. He believed that unless such buildings were specifically excluded, residents would not approve the bylaw change. "I find it threatening myself," he added. Board chair Michael Epstein responded that they would review the matter and consider his point.

Article 25 - Lot regularity

This bylaw amendment would establish requirements for "lot regularity" 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.

The new section states that the shape of all lots shall conform to the following requirement:


Where A = the lot area in square feet and P = the lot perimeter in linear 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. As the lot becomes more irregular, the coefficient drops, and the 0.4 limit corresponds to a rectangle of two by sixteen. In response to a question, members explained that other towns, such as Westford and Groton, use the .4 factor.

The formula may be applied only to that portion of the lot that conforms to the minimum frontage and area dimensional requirements of the bylaw, thus allowing greater irregularity on large parcels where it's 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.

The formula works with regularly shaped lots, but it doesn't work with pork chop lots. A pork chop lot requires only 40-foot frontage, but must be a minimum of four acres. The new section solves this by not allowing any area of a lot that is less than 40 feet wide or any area that is separated from the site of the dwelling by a "rat-tail" that's less than 40 feet wide to be used in the calculation of the minimum area. This won't apply to lots of record on the effective date of this section of the zoning bylaw.

At Monday's planning board hearing, administrator George Mansfield explained the proposed changes are based on recommendations from the town's counsel and consulting engineer, based on the plans they're seeing.

(Article 26 - see front page story)

Articles 27, 28 and 29 - Carriage Way

These three articles relate to the proposed sale of a town-owned lot in the new Carriage Way subdivision off East Riding Drive. Article 27 asks the town to authorize a confirmatory taking of a 2.3-acre lot the town acquired as a tax title property. Article 28 asks the town to authorize the acquisition of two parcels adjacent to the town's lot which would provide access to the new subdivision road and enough acreage to make it a buildable pork chop lot. Article 29 asks the town to authorize the sale of the resulting buildable lot and to deposit the sale proceeds, less the cost of acquiring the two parcels listed in Article 28 and certain related expenses, into the stabilization fund. Developer Bill Costello estimated that the lot could net the town $400,000 in proceeds. The finance committee recommends selling the lot and depositing the net proceeds into the stabilization fund.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito