Friday, February 28, 2003
Planning board initiates comprehensive town plan
Carlisle's planning board has begun an overhaul of the town's Master Plan with the help of a $30,000 state grant and a professional planning consultant. According to George Mansfield, the planning board's administrator, the new Master Plan will be a blueprint for future zoning, economic development, housing, and conservation efforts in Carlisle. It will attempt to organize the goals and priorities of town residents regarding housing development, commercial development and open space use.
Public survey and forum
The process for drafting the new plan is designed to encourage as much public input as possible. A questionnaire, asking residents to list their concerns and goals for the town's future, is being distributed (see survey page 5) and a public forum is scheduled on March 22.
A steering committee comprised of three members of the planning board and four residents will work with consultant Carol Thomas to tabulate the results of the questionnaire, host public hearings, and draft a proposed plan. Mansfield said he hopes to have much of the preliminary work completed before summer in order to maximize public input before school vacation.
At the forum on March 22 general areas of concern will be discussed, and interested residents will form focus groups to closely consider specific topics. These focus groups will meet in April and May, returning their recom-mendations to the steering committee in June. Mansfield thinks the new Master Plan may be ready for consideration at Town Meeting in Spring 2004.
The current plan was developed in 1992 and slightly updated in 1995. Recommendations in that plan included building Town Hall and rebuilding the library, and both projects were subsequently approved and completed. Since then, the population in town has increased almost 20%, real estate values have soared, and dozens of new houses have been built.
Focus on housing
While not required by law, Master Plans are strongly encouraged by the state. Although these plans address four areas of town administration: housing, economic development, transportation, and open space, according to Mansfield there is a definite bias from the state towards housing. In other words, the state wants towns to develop plans that clearly show how they will meet the goal of developing affordable housing units. To satisfy the state, the number of units should be about 10% of the total housing stock. For Carlisle, that would mean about 150 units of housing that are priced below Greater Boston real estate market values and are set aside for buyers with low to moderate incomes. Currently, Carlisle's only affordable housing units are the 12 apartments that make up the senior housing complex on Church Street, which amounts to about 1.5% of all the housing in town.
The topic of affordable housing is one that Carlisle continues to confront. Two years ago, a town-sponsored proposal to build 12 units on town-owned Conant Land behind the fire station was voted down at Town Meeting. By falling so far below the state's goal of 10%, the town leaves itself open to housing developments (under Chapter 40B) that are allowed to bypass local zoning regulations.
There are two 40B affordable housing developments now being proposed. A project on Lowell Street has been presented to the planning board, and another off Maple Street is on the agenda for next month. Without a document to show the state that Carlisle has a clear and deliberate plan for providing affordable housing, developers are likely to be allowed by the state to build housing with no oversight from the town. For the planning board, this is strong motivation to draft a Master Plan.
As part of the project, Carlisle's geographical data will be stored in Geographical Information Survey (GIS) format. Mansfield says that this will greatly improve the quality and accuracy of mapping information for use by the planning board and other town committees. The first step, which is underway, will be digitizing the assessor's parcel map.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito