Friday, November 16, 2001
Selectmen plan septic, housing TM presentations
Referring to past examples of hard-fought-for initiatives which reached dead-ends at Town Meeting, the selectmen on November 6 asked for input from members of Carlisle Affordable Housing Inc., the school building committee, and the recreation commission regarding the presentation of two articles on the Warrant for the November 27 Town Meeting. Article 5 provides for design of a school septic system and Article 7 approves funding for a study of the Town Forest with the intent of locating affordable housing there.
Town administrator Madonna McKenzie presented an e-mail from town counsel Paul DeRensis recommending that Article 5, be dropped from the Warrant. The funds for a school septic system were passed in 1995, so there is no need for a vote, and DeRensis cautioned that "even adding the words 'non-binding vote to see if we should, etc.' could have the consequence of short-circuiting the Prop. 2 1/2 override and the state's SBA (School Building Assistance) grant funding. . ." The state has agreed to provide 60 percent reimbursement for outlays under the 1995-approved funding; it would be a lower reimbursement rate if a new article were presented, as all state SBA funding levels have since dropped.
The selectmen were uncomfortable with DeRensis's suggestion, but loath to endanger the already-approved town funding and state reimbursement. According to selectman Vivian Chaput, "We need endorsement for our actions because this is a change from what was presented in 1995. Not only the location should be reviewed, but the fact that we're now looking at a waste-water treatment facility." The article approved in 1995 was for a Title 5 septic system (not a waste-water treatment facility) expected to cost $500,000, not the $1,000,000-plus now envisioned. The plan approved was in the same location on lower Banta-Davis field as the current plan, but that location was challenged by an abutter who won a suit against the town. It is expected the same abutter would oppose the new initiative, which was decided on after alternatives were examined and found wanting.
Said school building committee member Mike Fitzgerald, "If there were real opposition, we would have to go back and begin searching for land again," a prospect he clearly didn't relish. Tom Bilotta of Carlisle Affordable Housing Inc. spoke to the need to get the town behind the plan, "This is a major expense, and could be a legal sinkhole. I wouldn't go forward with only marginal support." After more discussion, it was decided a carefully-worded Article 5 would be retained.
Town Forest survey debated
Discussion of Article 7 focused on the degree to which a preliminary plan for the Town Forest should be put forward at Town Meeting, versus keeping it open-ended. Worried the discussion could get too off-base, Town Moderator Sarah Brophy proposed controlling the debate so "there's no lobbying one way or another as to what should be there." RecCom chair Maureen Tarca, however, pointed to the defeat of the proposed purchase of the old St. Irene site several years ago and countered, "This town doesn't vote for vague concepts. They want a picture of what's going to be there."
Selectman Chaput proposed that the $15,000 to be requested should fund a "preliminary site analysis" of the land, an extension of the original proposal from the Carlisle Affordable Housing Inc. which, according to Bilotta, asked for "cost estimates for the wetlands crossing (road) and for the housing project." McKenzie concurred with Chaput. "We don't know how much acreage there is and how much is wetlands. We need someone to research the history and find out how much is Town Forest. We don't yet know what's possible and what restrictions there might be." She pointed to the Rivers Act which might limit development on the land. "We need to understand what we have and what can be done with it," concluded McKenzie. It was decided to add "preliminary site analysis" to Article 7 to reflect a broader scope for the survey.
Article 8 discussed
A brief discussion of Article 8, an article by petition to place the entire Town Forest under a conservation restriction, had little support among town boards. Tarca summarized the view of the RecCom, "Putting this land under a conservation restriction is not a good decision for the town. We need some place to look to for housing, playing fields, and other municipal uses as the town grows." Dorothea Kress, a former member of the housing authority, a senior citizen, and an abutter to the Town Forest, also opposed the restriction and pointed out that nothing has been done to add to senior housing in over twenty years. "I want the seniors considered. We've got to stop making excuses and do something about housing." She then added, "As an abutter, I would like to keep this land pristine, but we must act as a town rather than as individuals." Ballantine reported that other boards have not thrown their support behind the article. "They want some conservation land retained, but support a plan for multi-use. We need a full plan which satisfies several needs."
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito