The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 9, 2001


Housing, land, services debated at planning day tomorrow

Members of the Carlisle Municipal Land Committee (CMLC) have discussed, pondered, debated and studied for several years, trying to develop a plan for acquisition and use of town land. Tomorrow morning from 9 to 12, at the Town Hall, residents will have a chance to weigh in at the CMLC's first planning day.

First on the agenda are presentations by CMLC members reviewing the town's needs for land and new or expanded facilities. After this, small discussion groups will be formed which will concentrate on providing the committee with insights on some of the issues, outlined below, that they have been pondering for years.

Affordable housing

Two discussion groups will tackle issues about housing. One group will discuss whether and how the town should support creation of affordable housing, rating the pros and cons of several alternative plans for development.

Housing bylaws

A second group will look at residential housing. CMLC members have been concerned with the town's changing mix of housing stock, as subdivisions relentlessly proliferate and tear-downs begin to intersperse imposing new homes with older and smaller dwellings. The committee has pondered what values are promoted by current zoning bylaws, and what incentives the town has to give a developer in exchange for protecting open space. The group will review a new model subdivision bylaw and explore what possibilities it may offer Carlisle.

Priorities for new facilities

What additional services and facilities will the town need to provide, and where should these be located? Much of the work of the CMLC over the past few years has been a detailed study of requested new facilities and possible expansion projects. CMLC members have thus far focused on whether the available land (the "supply") can accommodate this "demand," and whether the town should target certain parcels for acquisition before they are actually put up for sale.

An equally critical question is what priority citizens would give to the competing requests of town departments. These trade-offs are seldom directly confronted, since most large projects or land purchases come up for discussion and formal votes one or two at a time. The third group will be provided with cost estimates for each facility requested and with "Monopoly money" - a limited amount of funding for bond payments and for yearly operating expenses. This group will need to rank projects and set funding priorities for the next 10 years.

The West Concord model

Another CMLM concern has been whether town services must be located in the center, or in some other location? Does the town need to target particular parcels close enough to the center to be connected by paths (within about 1000 yards), or could some facilities be sited elsewhere?

One alternative is to establish a second town center (the "West Concord" model). This would increase the number of options for siting facilities for which there is currently no town-owned land in the center. A "village-like" zone elsewhere in town might allow for limited commercial development, space for a community center and playing fields connected by paths, trails or walkways.

The committee is interested in learning what townspeople see as the pros and cons of these two alternatives. The fourth group will discuss which requested new facilities or services should be in the current center, which could be located in a second center, or elsewhere in town.

Multi-purpose conservation land

Finally, committee members have debated whether the town should continue to buy land strictly for conservation. The alternative is to acquire conservation land that can also serve of a number of other purposes. Which uses are compatible, and how much support is there for a plan that sets aside some land for, say, recreation or elderly or affordable housing? The fifth group will discuss what the town should do when and if a parcel designated highest priority in the town's Open Space & Recreation Plan becomes available, and what town facilities would be appropriate for land bought for conservation.

Impact on the future

The issues that will be discussed tomorrow will have a profound effect on directions that the town will take in the next two decades. Large needs and limited resources require creative solutions. The municipal land committee needs your ideas and input. Come.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito