Friday, August 16, 2002
Stearns Street changes have great impact
To The Editor:
In a recent Mosquito, it was reported that a town board expressed its pleasure that some homeowners in our neighborhood applied for permits to add on a room or a porch, rather than selling the house to a developer/contractor to build million-and-a-half dollar homes for sale. The implication was that the board is aware of the major land-use change that is going on in one neighborhood of our lovely small town a major land-use change that has not, as far as we know, been publicly discussed.
On Stearns Street, a small road running between Route 225 and Baldwin Road, no less than four major construction projects are under way on individual lots. In each case, the existing, one-story home was sold and pulled down. A builder is now constructing a massive mansion some ten times larger than the pre-existing building on each lot. These homes are going on the market at more than one million dollars each. The resident of an old-style, smallish home adjacent to two of the "mansion" construction projects told us she was approached by strangers who knocked at the door and offered her $400,000 to buy her home. All the new million-dollar homes are being listed by Laura Balestiero of Senkler Associates. Ms. Balestiero used to live on Stearns Street, and has just moved to another Carlisle neighborhood.
These large land-use changes in such a small area have significant effects on the town as a whole, but have not, as far as we know, been publicly reviewed. First, many tens of trees have been removed to make way for not only the massive buildings but also for the vast sprinklered lawns that surround them. Large decorative lawns and small clusters of shrubs are very different from the slightly overgrown woods and small houses that previously characterized Stearns Street. They also mean fertilizer, weed-killer, other chemical products as well as the introduction of a limited number of plant species, and the extensive use of cedar and other mulches. These changes of vegetation, and the increase in built area, alter both the flora and fauna of the area, especially when introduced on such a massive scale - not one mansion, but four and possibly five on the same small street!
Second, when a new subdivision of million-dollar-plus homes is proposed, community members may have an opinion on the uncontrolled removal of smaller, more affordable homes for the young and/or the old members of our community.
And finally, whatever your architectural tastes, no one can pretend that these homes are adding to the beauty of our town.
But none of these objections would be meaningful if neighborhood residents had been consulted, as we imagine they would have been if an entire new subdivision was proposed. If that had been the case, Carlisle residents would have been able to comment openly on the ecological impact, the changed appearance of the neighborhood, the esthetics of the architecture, and the impact on affordable housing. They may even have decided these changes were acceptable. But by tearing down individual homes and replacing them, builders and realtors seem able to sidestep any conventional public approvals process. Only those of us who live nearby are aware that our neighborhood is changing radically and that we have not been able to make our opinions known.
John and Jacqueline Zeisel
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito