Friday, October 26, 2001
Two affordable housing clusters proposed for Town Forest
Ed Sonn of Carlisle Affordable Housing, Inc. presented an outline of a plan to develop affordable housing on the 78 acres of the Town Forest, bounded by Maple Street and East Riding Drive. His group hopes to present a Warrant article for $15,000 at Town Meeting on November 27 for engineering studies to locate the buildings and an access road and provide a cost estimate for the road.
The preliminary plan calls for two clusters of housing at 12 units each. Each cluster would consist of three to six structures of two to four units each. All units would be rentals, and at least 75 percent would be affordable. The remaining land could be devoted to recreation fields, a second school, or other uses to be determined. It is hoped a developer could be found to build the units with day-to-day management contracted out, and grants and mortgage financing providing most of the funding. In that case, the contribution of the town would consist of: 1) the land to be leased to Carlisle Housing Authority and 2) provision of the access road from East Street, expected to cost $400,000. It is also hoped that Community Preservation Act funds, collected through a two percent surcharge on taxes (with state matching funds) which passed at last spring's Town Meeting, could be used for the road. Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie, however, pointed out that CPA funds would not be available until FY2003 as there is a requirement to report collections to the Department of Revenue before disbursement.
Selectman Vivian Chaput expressed reservations as to the size of the development. "Twenty-four at one site together is excessive for this town. I don't want this to become thought of as "the projects." Sonn agreed that housing at several sites was preferable, and a swap for land elsewhere might be considered if the possibility arose. The high cost of the road, which includes a wetlands crossing, requires a second development to make it pay off.
Talk then turned to the appropriateness of a presentation at the Fall Town Meeting. Selectman Doug Stevenson was concerned that spring is traditionally "when we do the major town business." Selectman Tim Hult also worried that Fall Town Meeting is "a smaller meeting with a small number of issues" that might not represent the town as a whole. "I very much want this project to succeed and would hate to see you lose right off the bat," Hult said.
Discussion continued as to whether enough ground work was being done to garner support for the plan. Housing authority member Alan Lehotsky was of the opinion Spring Town Meeting would be a more difficult arena due to competition from other costly projects. "You'll have the wastewater treatment [plant for the Carlisle School] and the new school on the agenda." He added, "We learned on the Conant Land [affordable housing proposal, defeated at the 1999 Town Meeting] that preparation is all. You can't bring a plan to Town Meeting and say 'surprise!'"
Summarized chairman John Ballantine, "I think you can get support if you do the presentation properly and well. It's very important to stress the multiple uses of the land." With one vote against, the selectmen agreed to lend "reasonable support for a broad-ranged approach."
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito