Friday, November 16, 2001
A Guide to the November 27 Special Town Meeting Warrant
ARTICLE 1- O'Rourke Funds: To see if the Town will vote to appropriate any funds received by the Town from the United States Government relative to the O'Rourke land conveyance pursuant to Article 6 of the November 19, 1997 Special Town Meeting to the Stabilization Fund of the town maintained pursuant to Chapter 40, Section 5B of the general laws of the Commonwealth, or take any other action relative thereto. (BOARD OF SELECTMEN)
The town expects to receive a payment from the US government next spring for the O'Rourke Land, a town-owned parcel sold to the federal government in 1997 to become part of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. This article provides that that payment go to the Stabilization Fund to be available for future town expenses.
FinCom chair Tony Allison has told members that the study of the former O'Rourke farm has determined that a municipal water supply is not feasible on the land, allowing release to the town of over $120,000 held in escrow since the US Fish and Wildlife Service bought it from the town two years ago. This article would direct this money to the stabilization fund, and the FinCom voted unanimously to support the article.
ARTICLE 2 Town Ways: To see if the Town will vote to lay out as town ways Hutchins Road, Kimball Road, and Barnes Place as shown on the plan entitled Tall Pines, Carlisle, Massachusetts, filed in the office of the Town Clerk, excluding any structures currently existing within the bounds of said ways; and to see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to acquire by purchase, gift or eminent domain any title interests in the land constituting said ways; and further to see if the Town will vote to appropriate, borrow pursuant to any applicable statute or transfer from available funds, a sum of money for such purpose; and to take such other actions related thereto. (BOARD OF SELECTMEN)
The board of selectmen is sponsoring an article for the acceptance of Hutchins Road, Kimball Road and Barnes Place as public ways. The article includes language omitting the disputed stonewalls and posts noted by the planning board.
Additionally, the last clause of "acquiring title interest" will permit the board of selectmen to take appropriate action such as purchasing the actual road.
When the town accepts a roadway, the town can own it, or the town can be granted an easement with all pertinent rights by the owner of record. The intention of this article is to own these roadways.
The FinCom did not vote on this article, citing no financial impact except additional costs of plowing the roads and school buses.
ARTICLE 3 Bicycle Law: To see if the Town will vote to adopt Chapter 40, Section 21, cl. (16B) of the Massachusetts General Laws "for designating areas upon public streets to be used as bicycle lanes and for establishing a noncriminal ticketing procedure against violations of bicycle laws, and a schedule of fines for breaches thereof, not to exceed twenty dollars for each offense" or take any other action relative thereto. (BOARD OF SELECTMEN)
Adoption of the article will enable local police to levy fines up to $20 on bicycle operators who break rules of the road. Furthermore, the town can designate bicycle lanes on public streets.
The FinCom did not vote on this article, citing no financial impact.
ARTICLE 4 Two-Thirds Votes Town Meetings: To see if the Town will vote to amend the Town of Carlisle General Bylaws, Article II, Town Meetings, by inserting the following:
2.5 Wherever a two-thirds vote is required by statute for adoption of any action by a town meeting, such vote may be declared as such by the moderator without a count and to be recorded as such by the Clerk upon such declaration provided, however, that seven or more voters at a town meeting may challenge such declaration, all as provided by Chapter 39, Section 15 of the general laws, at which time a count shall be held.
or take any other action relative thereto. (BOARD OF SELECTMEN for Town Moderator)
This amendment to town bylaws is recommended by the Town Moderator as a time-saving measure at Town Meeting. Rather than do a hand count for every 2/3 vote as is now required, it would allow the Moderator to scan the audience during a vote and, if the vote is decisive, dispense with the count. A challenge by seven or more voters would force a count.
The FinCom did not vote on this article, citing no financial impact.
ARTICLE 5 Wastewater Treatment Facility Design: To see what action the Town will vote with regards to the School Building Committee proposal seeking to design a new wastewater treatment facility at the Lower Banta Davis Land. (BOARD OF SELECTMEN for School Building Committee)
The School Building Study Committee is asking for approval of funds for the planning stages of a wastewater treatment facility to be built on the Banta-Davis town land. The Warrant article will ask for permission to expend money already approved for the septic system, for design and permitting. The money would be used for engineering designs, to file a ground water discharge permit with the state Department of Environmental Protection and for work in preparation of a Notice of Intent (NOI) to the Carlisle Conservation Commission, seeking permission to build the system.
According to school business manager Eileen Riley, the town already approved money for the Grant (Link) building project septic system in 1996. Of the $500,000 already approved, $150,000 has been spent, leaving $350,000 allocated for the septic system project. Up to 60 percent of the cost of the new wastewater system is eligible for reimbursement by the state School Building Assistance program (SBA), according to Riley, although it could take several years for reimbursement by the state. The SBA has already approved $700,000 to replace the current failed system. Riley said the SBA commitment is based on work being completed in a timely manner.
The present school septic system has been in technical failure under Title 5 regulations for several years and is pumped out monthly. Engineers have advised the building committee that the school now needs a wastewater treatment facility rather than a septic system, due in part to increased enrollments which have increased flow rates at the school.
A septic system was originally planned for the Banta-Davis Land in 1996 but construction was successfully challenged by abutters in a lawsuit. The Rivers Protection Act was cited in the suit because Pages Brook, a year-round stream located on Church Street, needs to be crossed by a sewerage pipe running from the school down to the lower Banta-Davis Land. At the request of town officials, engineers have done soil tests on dozens of sites near the school over the last several months to find an alternative to the Banta-Davis Land, but no other suitable location was available. At this time the school building committee is moving forward to replace the current failed septic system with a new wastewater treatment facility designed to meet the needs of the existing school, as well as a possible second school built at a later date.
The FinCom has delayed a recommendation on this article, principally due to concerns about whether the amount left from the total of $500,000 that the town was originally authorized to borrow (unknown as of their November 7 meeting) will be enough to pay the design and permitting costs. Members have also expressed reservations about whether the motion to be presented would authorize spending above the amount already authorized, and whether the town could be "throwing money away" if an anticipated legal challenge eventually forces the school to change the site for the wastewater treatment facility.
ARTICLE 6 School Feasibility Study: To see if the Town will vote to appropriate from available funds a sum of money to be expended by the Board of Selectmen for a Feasibility Study for the purpose of further investigation of a new building site, with cost estimates for the alternatives, as well as an overview of a long range plan for use of the existing campus buildings, or take any other action relative thereto. (BOARD OF SELECTMEN for School Building Committee)
The school building study committee is requesting funds of $15-20,000 to further evaluate a site for construction of a new school to alleviate overcrowding at the Carlisle School. The committee is recommending the Banta-Davis Land off Bedford Road as the best available location for construction of a proposed new school for students in four grades, Pre-Kindergarten to Grade Two.
An initial feasibility study completed by HKT Architects in June was the basis for the committee's recommendation of the Banta-Davis Land. A further study will provide a more complete assessment of the sites looked at including: the Banta-Davis Land, the sloping hillside next to the school on Church street and the Spalding playing fields at the bottom of the hill. The building committee has also looked into expanding the existing campus to add more classroom space to accommodate increasing enrollments. Common areas such as the cafeteria, outdoor play plaza and gym would also need to be enlarged and more parking added to accommodate additional students at the school.
The study is intended for further analysis of the proposed sites, including detailed cost estimates for building on each site and estimated operating costs for the different locations. The study will also review enrollment projections for the school and provide long-range plans for use of the existing campus buildings.
At a November 5 meeting of the long-term capital requirements committee (LTCRC), members agreed with chair Lenny Johnson's proposal to support this article, presuming the funds would be spent to "continue to define and evaluate options covering the size, scope, location and cost of expanded facilities," and to look for "cost-effective ways to phase expansion program to meet projected enrollment-driven needs while minimizing budget impact on other operating and capital needs." Johnson said that planning to develop the $20 million in pending school capital projects (CPS expansion, wastewater treatment, and CCHS expansion) in phases would be essential, given that the town would have to cover the highest debt service costs without state reimbursement for some years; members were also concerned that the feasibility study was produced to meet the school committee's assumption that a new building on the Banta-Davis Land was the best choice, rather than examining how to provide additional classrooms, or increasing capacity for a smaller number of students.
FinCom has postponed a vote on recommending this article until they learn the amount to be requested. At a November 7 meeting FinCom members expressed the same concern as the LTCRC that expansion on the existing campus, as well as other alternatives, had not been seriously considered.
ARTICLE 7 - Town Forest Feasibility Study: To see if the Town will vote to appropriate from available funds a sum of money to be spent by the Board of Selectmen for the purpose of employing appropriate professional engineering, preliminary site analysis, surveying and/or consulting services to prepare a plan for multi-use of the land known as The Town Forest, shown on the Assessors maps of Carlisle page 23, lot 66, including but not limited to affordable housing, active and passive recreation, and other municipal purposes, or take any other action relative thereto. (BOARD OF SELECTMEN)
The Carlisle Housing Authority and Carlisle Affordable Housing Inc. initially put forth the proposal for a study to determine the cost and feasibility of building a road and one 12 unit housing cluster which would be followed by a second 12 unit cluster in three to four years. The selectmen broadened the language of the warrant to include a wider feasibility study to determine the best uses for the Town Forest land.
This article is not without opposition, however. The abutters to the Town Forest have gotten together and signed a petition blocking any use other than conservation purposes and passive recreation. See Article 8.
The FinCom voted against recommending this article by a margin of four (Barton, Jensen-Fellows, Ives, Trask) to two (Allison, Nock). The majority based their opposition on the belief that the source of funds for this purpose should be the Community Preservation Fund approved last spring, rather than the town's free cash as proposed, though some suggested negotiating a lower rate for the CPA surcharge next year to make up for taxpayers being "double-taxed." Allison argued that exploring affordable housing at the Town Forest would provide the chance to learn whether citizens would ever support such a project anywhere in town.
ARTICLE 8 - By Petition Town Forest Transfer of Control: To see if the Town will authorize and require the Selectmen to transfer control of the Town Forest
(69 plus or minus acres) to the Carlisle Conservation Commission to be used solely for conservation purposes and passive recreation. (BY PETITION)
Approximately 150 citizens have signed this petition in an attempt to block implementation of Warrant Article VII, which would authorize development of a multi-use plan for the Town Forest, to include affordable housing clusters, among other municipal purposes. The sponsors are asking that control of the entire parcel be transferred to the Carlisle Conservation Commission and devoted exclusively to conservation and passive recreation.
The petitioners, who include a number of abutters and neighbors, stress that they are not opposed to affordable housing as such, but have in fact been recommending that the land be designated as conservation land since 1994. Noting that the forest has existed for over 100 years and now protects a rich and varied wildlife habitat, they want it to be preserved in its natural state. Backing up this sentiment, several of the petitioners have, over recent years, taken steps to help maintain the parcel and thus enhance its use for hiking, dog walking, birding, snowshoeing and camping. They also suggest that before opening up the forest to development, the town might seek help from the state, perhaps through a donation of land in Great Brook Farm State Park where the 18 or less acres required for one or two clusters of housing units would have far less impact.
The Carlisle Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee, on the other hand, point out that the land available for meeting immediate municipal needs is scarce, and that the town should maintain flexibility rather than putting approximately $10 million dollars worth of buildable land out of reach. The Carlisle Housing Authority, which was stymied in its attempt to put affordable housing on the Conant Land, reminds the voters that the state may soon run out of patience with the town if it does not make substantial progress toward meeting its affordable housing mandate. If the study requested in Article VII shows that use of a portion of the Town Forest is feasible, the cost to the taxpayers would be negligible in the long run. The Recreation Commission for its part focuses on the possibility of siting playing fields on some portion of the land.
In short, with the cost of land having skyrocketed and the town's requirement for school facilities, playing fields, reasonably-priced housing and even a community center looming over the horizon, these town officials are advising the voters to stop and take stock before making any irreversible decisions.
The FinCom voted unanimously against recommending this article, citing the committee's "historic" and "traditional" opposition to restricting the use of any town asset. Carlisle Affordable Housing, Inc. member and former FinCom chair Tom Bilotta had suggested to FinCom at an October 30 meeting that if it were not possible for the town to use it, the land should be sold.
Francesca Bjork, Anne Marie Brako, Darlene D'Amour, Seba Gaines, Nancy Pierce, Cecile Sandwen and Susan Yanofsky contributed to this article.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito