The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 2, 2000


Great Brook Estates plans clear last hurdle before planning board

There was good news for Albert Gould and Betsy Goldenberg on May 22 when they once again appeared before the planning board for the long-sought approval of their Great Brook Estates subdivision. They received a special permit for a conservation cluster and common driveway with a total of nine lots (plus a bonus lot) on a 1,000-foot cul-de-sac at 195 Rutland Street.

At the last meeting, engineer Gary Shepard of David Ross Associates had upped the ante by proposing a conservation cluster of five lots plus bonus lot with an open space parcel of 5.72 acres. The previous cluster within the development only contained three lots and 3.83 acres of open space. Also, a straightened and less confusing common driveway will now connect five of the six houses in the conservation cluster to the Great Brook Path cul-de-sac. The name proposed for the common driveway is Farnham Smith Lane. (See box)

Critter culvert

Shepard opened by confirming that town engineer LandTech agreed with all the recent changes, including the troublesome fire cistern located under the entrance of Great Brook Path. Then, trying unsuccessfully to keep a straight face befitting the seriousness of the subject, Shepard announced to the surprised board members that the new roadway will feature a "critter culvert." This is in response to a request by the conservation commission to provide a means for small creatures, such as turtles and salamanders, to bypass an otherwise impenetrable concrete retaining wall within the wetlands. The culvert, built of six-inch thick concrete, will be four feet wide and one-and-one-half feet high, sloped to provide ventilation and ensure drainage. The slope also allows comfortable passage between wetlands of different elevation on either side of Great Brook Path.

The idea of a critter culvert evoked a different response from each person in the Clark Room. One board member envisioned a predatory animal stationing itself at the exit and devouring each helpless creature as it emerged from the culvert. Chris Puffer of Rutland Street worried about neighborhood cats and dogs getting stuck in the narrow passageway. When asked how creatures would find the crossing, Shepard proposed signage stating, "Salamanders This Way." His tactful personal opinion as to the value of the critter crossing was, "somewhere between totally pointless and extremely vital." Member Phyllis Zinicola recalled attending a recent slide show that advocated such a culvert because it gives creatures an option when presented with a vertical surface. Gould couldn't resist adding that it meant the new roadway was no longer "critter critical."

Shepard received no objections when he revealed that wetland replication will be reduced from the usual one-and-one-third to a straight one-to-one. It made sense, given the extent of the bordering wetlands, to create a minimum of disturbance to the existing environment. After some discussion on alternate materials that might be used in sidewalk construction, board members decided to stick with familiar asphalt. Modified Cape Cod berm will be used throughout the project, except for sloped granite at the curves. Chair Michael Epstein had only one remaining issue: "Who should own the open space?"

There are three alternatives. The homeowners' association could own the open space with appropriate conservation restrictions. Since a segment of a state park trail goes through the open space, another possibility is for the state to own the land. A third option is for ownership to be conveyed to the town or the local conservation foundation. Member Michael Abend came out in favor of town ownership, with an easement for the state. "If we had our druthers," Gould said, they would prefer that the open land be controlled by the homeowners' association with a perpetual conservation restriction. Member Dan Holzman feared that the homeowners would immediately put up "no trespassing" signs, whereas town ownership opens it up to the public. No one felt comfortable with turning the land over to the state.

Eventually, a combination won out. A vertical line from the intersection of Lots B and C to the northern boundary will separate the open space into two parcels. All the land to the left will be town-owned and the homeowners' association, with proper conservation restrictions, will own all the land to the right. The state will be given an easement for the existing trail that transects the property.

The only remaining issue involved the safety of making a left turn from Rutland Street into Great Brook Path against oncoming traffic. Abend and several members of the board met with Shepard at the site to determine whether limited visibility and the slope of Rutland Street make this a potential hazard. They eventually decided that some judicious paving and regrading would solve the problem without requiring a major project by the department of public works. That resolved, the moment of truth had finally arrived for applicants Gould and Goldenberg.

Member Kate Reid moved that the planning board approve the definitive subdivision plan for Great Brook Estates with various waivers and conditions accumulated during the course of the public hearing. The motion received 6-0-1 approval by the board (new member Zinicola abstained), as did subsequent motions for approval of the conservation cluster and common driveway special permits. The "path" is now cleared for Carlisle to host its first critter culvert.

The next meeting of the planning board is scheduled for June 12.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito