The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 6, 2001

Features

Who's snobby?

Just one question. If I oppose the anti-snob law, Massachusetts G.L. chapter 40B for anyone who's been hiding under a rock with the real estate agents and developers, does that make me pro-snob, or even snobby? This law, written over 30 years ago, was designed to circumvent the town boards that make it difficult for developers to build houses. If "Giant Builders" wants to develop affordable housing units, the state gives them a hand by preventing local conservation commissions and boards of health from putting up stumbling blocks.

The assumption behind the law is that people like us are snobs who want to use hypertechnical zoning regulations to control the makeup of our town. Accepting this assumption means all motives are suspect. Is the new vernal pool regulation, which expands the area and definition of a wetland, being proposed by environmentalists who believe biodiversity is a precious asset, or by homeowners who believe property value is a precious asset? Is the fear of an influx of schoolchildren motivated by financial prudence or by a competitive impulse to fend off less educable children who may drag us down from our perch at the top of the MCAS ladder? Whenever arguments are made that appeal to our desire to protect our small town way of life (no pathways, no school expansion), skeptics presume that what we really want to protect is our elitist isolation.

Carlisle may be nestled in the woods, but it certainly is not hidden. People who make money buying, developing, and selling real property are well aware that land here is worth its weight in gold and that building affordable housing is a very profitable proposition.

It seems that every aspect of life in Carlisle is under attack from one camp or another. Owners of modest homes feel threatened by buyers with million dollar budgets. Owners of large homes feel marginalized and distrusted by longtime residents. Proponents of pathways are derided as interlopers who seek to tarnish the New England charm of our town. And real estate agents and developers are disdained on all sides (as soon as they've done their jobs and helped us find and buy the home of our dreams, of course).

Can the Community Preservation Act help us preserve a cohesive sense of community? Maybe, maybe not. But, as always, motivation is the key. Are we truly trying to keep Carlisle lovable and liveable, or are we like people who escape to higher ground and then pull the ladder away to prevent others from joining us at the top?


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