The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 5, 2000


Conant Land affordable housing project debated at Town Meeting

The housing authority was sent back to the drawing board when Tuesday's Town Meeting failed to pass Article 21 to transfer six acres of the Conant Land for development of seven units of affordable- and moderate-income housing.

After a presentation of the plan by architect Jim Velleco, housing authority chair Marty Galligan, gave a brief history of affordable housing in Carlisle. Only one development, the 18-unit Carlisle Village Court, built in 1981, has ever been completed. Galligan detailed expected financing for the Conant Land project, showing that with grants and the free transfer of land, the project would be $200,000 short, an amount the authority hoped to raise from gifts or the town. Galligan then presented the planned timeline for the project, countering expected objections by pointing out that early well drilling and testing would identify any water quality issues before building would take place. Selectman John Ballentine pointed out the review process, including a public hearing before the selectmen could lease the land.

A number of town center residents provided emotional testimony of finding methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive, in their well water. Ken Bedrosian of Bedford Road asked for "a moritorium [on building in the town center] until studies are completed and a remedial plan is in place," While some suggested that the Conant project could exacerbate the existing problem, water quality subcommittee member Tony Mariano clearly stated, "We see no reason to believe this project would impact center wells in a negative way."

Sally Owens of Lowell Street opposed siting houses within 80 feet of the Conant Land Trail, "The Conant Land is too valuable to be torn up for five units of affordable housing." The site was an issue on other fronts. In response to a question, Galligan admitted that with no money to purchase land, the group considered only town-owned land with no conservation restrictions, with Banta-Davis intended for schools and recreation, the Town Forest wet and the Gage wood lot inaccessible, Conant became the choice.

Complementing the housing authority for the time and effort they put into their plan and declaring himself "in favor of affordable housing," planning board member Dan Holzman, a civil engineer, called the Conant Land "a brutally tough site with high ledge, a substandard road, and water issues."

Ed Sonn of Carlisle Affordable Housing, Inc., the non-profit corporation formed to develop the project, said, "Land for affordable housing needs to be a priority for Carlisle. We need a coordinated plan in this town for landnot only for affordable housing, but for school and recreation use.

Asked about the authority's plans for the future, Galligan indicated that many of the objections raised about the Conant Land site did not hold water. He said, "We will review the possibilities," including re-examining previously rejected sites such as the Town Forest. Other possibilities include soliciting tax-deductible gifts of land or money to Carlisle Affordable Housing, zoning changes to require developers to build affordable units, and working with a developer with land suitable for affordable housing.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito