Friday, August 30, 2002
Any new ideas?
In the August 16 edition of the Carlisle Mosquito, there appeared an article on the front page written by Jill Reichenbach that addressed the issue of the proposed 90-home Robbins Mill subdivision in Acton across the western boundary of Carlisle near West Street, Acton Street, Log Hill Road and Woodland Road. Take a look at that article if you were away on vaction or somehow missed it.
This week we learned that the Acton Planning Board approved the subdivision at its Monday night meeting. This has set me to wondering how a neighboring town could act so indiscriminately without taking into account the impact this might have on those living nearby in a bordering town. In the Acton case, I'm talking about increased traffic and possible groundwater contamination that will occur in Carlisle.
When cars from the new development enter Carlisle Road in Acton, would you expect them to turn to the left heading onto Route 27 and then left again at the junction of Route 27 and Route 2A where a new mall is being built just down the road? Or will they turn right, heading into Carlisle on Acton Street and then turn right again on West Street as they make their way east, heading towards Boston? There's no question that drivers will try to take the West Street route to avoid the congestion on 2A and the rotary in Concord.
Another item that drew my attention in the August 16 issue was John and Jacqueline Ziesel's letter to the editor, "Stearns Street changes have great impact." They are asking why the tear-down of four moderate size houses, replaced by massive million-dollar homes are not being reviewed by town boards. Whereas a new subdivision must go before the planning board, these new tear-downs and replacements slip through without any public approval process.
In the first case, why was there no communication between the two towns' planning boards? By the time Carlisle knew what was happening, it was a done deal. Could an organization like MAGIC provide a means for dissemination of such information? What can we do about it now? One suggestion is for our police department to ban through traffic on West Street during commuting hours. Concord has limited traffic on Liberty Street and Estabrook Road during the early morning and evening rush hours. Would that be a possibility in Carlisle?
In the town's continuing concern about tear-downs, what about a lot coverage bylaw which would at least address the problem of small houses on undersized lots being replaced with much larger homes? Would a 5% or 7.5% limit on house footprint prevent some of the more egregious cases, but not be burdensome on conforming lots?
There must be other ideas out there. For now, I am quite sure that any bylaw concerning tear-downs that the planning board brought before the town would find overwhelming support. If we don't do something, I suspect there will be many more Stearns Streets in our future.
Last week I took my daughter Evie to begin her freshman year at American University in Washington, DC. It was a bittersweet time, recalling to mind my own arrival at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh over 50 years ago, but touched too with the mixed sadness and joy of a father who knows that an epoch in his daughter's life has ended.
When I set off for college I had never been farther from my home in Newton than Maine to the north and New York to the west, and I dare say it showed. I was shy and inexperienced, and, among other limitations, I had been on only a handful of dates. I don't think I had eaten more than a dozen meals in a restaurant. Alcohol was around but not much used by my crowd. Illicit drugs were almost unheard of. Though it was, by today's standards, a safe world, I distinctly remember my childish feelings of apprehension when my mother hugged me and my father shook my hand, as they departed for home. But, like most of my classmates, I adapted to the new circumstances, and learned, and grew, discovering aspects of myself that I had not known existed. Most notable was my changed attitude towards my mother and father, with whom I thenceforth related as an adult, recognizing their flaws and their strengths in comparison with other adults whom I had known and with what I knew about myself.
In many respects, Evie seems different. Unlike me at that stage of my life, Evie has traveled on three occasions to Europe. She was popular in high school and had no dearth of social life. She has attended a private school for two years and is consequently familiar with the away-from-home feelings and routines. She has eaten so many meals in restaurants that dining out is for her quite unremarkable, and she knows about alcohol and drugs. She has undergone life experiences that I had only read about. Going off to college she seemed well attuned to the new life that awaited her ready to learn the new routines, happy to make new friends, eager to learn what her courses have in store for her, and perhaps glad to start on a new phase of life. Still, when we said goodbye, I think I detected in her some of the same apprehension that I had once felt.
Psychologists warn us not to try to live our lives through our children. No doubt it is good advice, but still it is through our children that we catch our only glimpse of immortality, so we care deeply what happens to them. It is not the unrealistic wish that nothing bad ever happen to them, for we grow in adversity, but it is a wish that life not be too hard on them. College can be a wonderful experience, but the world today is laced with opportunities for disaster, and kids can tumble into them, almost unwittingly.
Evie is not a little girl any longer; she has her wits about her, and I expect her to be successful. When she returns from college, I expect she will regard me if she does not already as I once did my own parents, with a more detached view of my weaknesses and strengths. As she faces life's challenges, she will want to rely more on her own resources. That she can be self-reliant is a joyful thought, but it is tinged nonetheless with the regret for my diminished role.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito