Friday, March 16, 2001
Housing groups propose small affordable cluster in Town Forest
The development of a new affordable housing proposal that will be placed before the Spring Town Meeting was the focus of the Carlisle Housing Authority meeting on February 28.
Concern about the lack of a plan was voiced by member Hal Sauer stating, "Carlisle is at a great exposure by not having an approved affordable housing plan." Housing authority chair Marty Galligan countered, "We would have had affordable housing on the Conant Land, but lost that opportunity at the May 2000 Town Meeting." Last year the town turned down a proposal to build seven affordable housing rental units on six acres of the 54-acre tract, amid concerns about financial sustainability as well as impact on town center water and on valuable features of the land.
Five-fifteen unit clusters
Authority members recalled that the town forest was originally intended to provide a wood lot for poor families residing in Carlisle. At the February 10 Municipal Planning Day the forest was identified as town-owned multipurpose land suitable for an affordable housing development.
Planning Day participants also indicated a strong preference for small cluster versus large cluster units, maintaining low density open space and the rural character of the town. Member Shelley Orenstein stated, "Townspeople show strong support for a cluster unit size of 5-15." The Authority voted unanimously to reflect the voices of the townspeople, adopting the 5-15 unit cluster size.
Carlisle Affordable Housing, Inc.
Tom Bilotta, representing Carlisle Affordable Housing, Inc. (CAHI), spoke briefly about CAHI's history and current status. CAHI is a not-for-profit-organization founded in l989 and was an offshoot of the elderly housing construction project. It "went dormant" in the '90s and has recently had to re-establish its non-profit status. According to Bilotta, this should be accomplished in late March. CAHI's mission is to build the affordable housing units after the project is approved by Town Meeting. Once built and occupied, CAHI will manage the development. Member Ed Sonn pointed out that, unlike the housing authority, CAHI benefits by not being bound by some of the rules for construction of government projects.
According to Sonn, affordable housing will be developed under a comprehensive permit which allows a higher density cluster than permitted by local zoning bylaws. The development will meet Title 5 septic requirements. It was noted that Carlisle's Malcolm Meadows and Village Court senior housing units were built under this permit process.
Funding affordable housing
Turning to funding, Bilotta said, "State subsidies can be significant and the town can [end up contributing] very little if you do it right." He will be looking at funding opportunities and formulating financial scenarios for future review.
Remembering recent resident land grants to the town, member Alan Lehotsky suggested encouraging townspeople making future grants to consider earmarking land for affordable housing. Additionally, Sonn recommended that when the town purchases land, some of it be identified for affordable housing. Participation in the Community Preservation Act (CPA) was discussed as a means to provide an additional source of funding for affordable housing. The CPA allows towns to attach a surcharge to property taxes to develop a fund for conservation, historic preservation and affordable housing. Citizens will address Carlisle's participation in the CPA at the Special Town Meeting on April 10. Both housing groups, the Carlisle Housing Authority and Affordable Housing, Inc., recommend a one-percent CPA tax levy. "Enacting CPA is a step forward on the path toward building affordable housing in Carlisle," said Sonn.
Working with town boards
Over the next few weeks, all town boards and committees will be contacted by authority members to review the housing plan and seek support and feedback from all stakeholders. According to Lehotsky, "Carlisle School Committee members are supportive of affordable housing that [may give] teachers the option of living and working in Carlisle, but they also indicate concern about a possible influx of students [into an already crowded school]."
The meeting ended with Hal Sauer announcing his resignation from the housing authority due to time constraints and commitments. He currently works with the Carlisle Board of Appeals and the Unitarian Church. Authority members expressed their thanks to Sauer for all the fine work he has done.
The next housing authority meeting will be on Thursday, March 22.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito