The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 29, 2001


State predicts Carlisle could add 3,200 people, 1,100 building lots, 600 students

Mike Fleming of the SuAsCo (Sudbury/Assabet/Concord Rivers) Watershed Team and Mark Racicot of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) addressed the joint Carlisle town boards meeting on June 19 to introduce the state's initiatives to provide communities with tools and programs for town planning. One goal of the program is to help a town predict its eventual size at the point of "build-out," when every developable parcel has been developed. According to the state's analysis, Racicot said, Carlisle has 2,900 undeveloped acres and could eventually see 1,100 additional lots developed with 3,200 additional residents at the point of build-out.

Identifying fundamental resources

As participants walked into the meeting, they were drawn to several large maps of Carlisle. Each map highlighted certain factors important in predicting the eventual buildout town size. These maps will be on display at Town Hall, and similar maps have been provided to each of the 351 Massachusetts communities.

Fleming began with an overview of Carlisle, highlighting the factors that make the town unique. Moving from photos of the town center, he then showed examples of the farms, stone walls, open spaces, and water resources that define Carlisle. He moved on to maps of the SuAsCo area at various points over the past forty years, showing how increasing urbanization has affected ground imperviousness to rainwater. These maps can be viewed at

Fleming mentioned that under Executive Order 418, Carlisle and other towns are eligible to receive $30,000 toward services and technical assistance for planning in the areas of transportation, housing, open space and economic development.

Carlisle with 8,000 people?

Racicot then introduced the build-out analysis. By looking at available land, existing zoning, and development restrictions, the program determines how much acreage is available for development. There is no time-frame given, but the goal is "to show the direction your town will go if no action is taken."

Using state averages, he predicted 3,200 additional residents, and 608 additional school students at the point of build-out. The analysis was done with a variety of assumptions, including two acres per lot, 2.8 people per household, .52 students per household, no variances, setbacks for river protection, and a 20 percent loss as land is developed. Racicot encouraged town planners to "rerun the analysis with a different set of assumptions if you don't like these," and provided the town with the programs and data to do this.

Selectman Vivian Chaput and conservation administrator Sylvia Willard questioned whether the difficulty of developing land where parcels have to be combined or where access is unavailable would prevent development. "It's less likely, but it happens," said Racicot. He pointed to Swampscott, where land on the sides of cliffs once considered undevelopable is now being developed. He also predicted that Carlisle's historic growth rate may accelerate. "Build-out closer to Boston may drive faster growth." He suggested that land acquisitions using the Community Preservation Act and other fund sources might be considered, and pointed to Littleton where revenue from cell towers on municipal land goes into a fund for land purchases.

Regional traffic to be addressed

Selectman John Ballantine, pointing to population growth in Westford, Littleton, and other surrounding communities, questioned what tools were available for looking at traffic issues on a regional basis. Racicot said that a future step will be to put the various town maps together for regional analysis. The state will collect "journey to work" data to analyze commuting patterns and make recommendations for mass transit. "Unfortunately, in the I-495 area, you don't have dense enough nodes to make mass transit effective."

Fleming and Racicot left maps, software, and a notebook entitled "Building Vibrant Communities," with information on the various resources available to town planners.

© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito

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