Friday, May 5, 2000
Town Meeting Votes Down Conant Land Affordable Housing Plans
Concerns about its impact on town center water and a centerpiece conservation area, as well as a myriad of other uncertainties led to the demise of the affordable housing's proposal to use six of Conant Land's 54 acres for seven rental units. The group needed a two-thirds majority for Article 21, which would have transferred a portion of the land and permitted a lease to a nonprofit entity for that purpose, but failed to carry even a majority with a final vote of 136 in favor to 139 opposed.
Tuesday night's meeting began with words of thanks from selectman Michael Fitzgerald for Marshall "Pete" Simonds' 34 years of service. Complimenting Simonds' skill in moderating many extremely complex debates, Fitzgerald said that he had "championed the Town Meeting form of government" and was a "true gentleman." Presented with a chair from the town, Simonds reclined in his seat to the resounding sound of a standing ovation from the audience in Corey Auditorium.
On to the business of the meeting, it seemed no surprise that Articles 1 to 19 passed with relative ease and Town Meeting voters generously approved the $14,911,788 operating budget along with the $222,487 override amount, as well as the requested capital equipment, $100,000 roll-off truck, wage study increases, new school feasibility study and additional funding for Carlisle School's roof-top units. However, as always happens at Town Meeting, there were two unexpected hiccups. The first came when resident and parent Maureen Tarca asked to amend the operating budget and transfer $58,000 from free cash to the Carlisle School. She reiterated concerns that had been voiced at the hearing last week about the inequities of the school committee's plan to institute fees to cover the shortfall, even if the override passes. (See story on page 11) It seemed to come as no surprise when finance committee chair Tony Allison pointed out that they could not recommend the transfer because free cash was already approaching $350,000, well below the recommended $800,000 level, and a further reduction could affect the town's bond rating and ultimately cost the town more in borrowing costs. However, perhaps the more powerful punch against Tarca's proposal came when school committee member Paul Morrison said that they believed that the recommended budget was "a reasonable compromise with the town, selectmen and FinCom and we do not recommend an increased transfer from free cash." He explained that the committee did not want to cut level services and recommended the fees "with great reluctance."
Another unexpected debate was prompted by the selectmen's decision to allocate $30,000 for sidewalks from the town's $134,000 in Chapter 90 funds, typically used for road repairs. A proposed amendment by South Street resident George Lohrer to withhold the funds for the pedestrian pathways failed, but prompted a hearty dialogue on the value of sidewalks, the opportunity for citizen input on such plans, the $30,000 price tag for a study of a school-centered loop and the ultimate cost of sidewalks. The main motion on Article 11 clearly carried with the necessary two-thirds majority (256 infavor, 13 opposed) but not before bike-pedestrian committee chair Deb Belanger acknowledged that they needed to better inform residents about their plans and assured voters that they would bring their proposal back to voters "every step of the way."
The meeting ran until 10:45 p.m. and Simonds encouraged voters to return on Wednesday to hear Articles 23 to 29, including the cell tower bylaw, enticing them with the promise of "a new report finding that microwave radiation is good for you." While chuckles followed, it will remain to be seen if a quorum will bite the bait.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito