The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 23, 2003


Focus groups to address housing diversity, economic development

The Community Development Plan Steering Committee, formed by the Planning Board to coordinate state-funded long-range planning efforts under Executive Order 418 (EO418) in conjunction with their consultants, Thomas Planning Associates, is finalizing details for two focus groups to be held on two separate evenings in early June. The first focus group will be on housing diversity on June 5; the second will be on economic development on June 11.

Housing and economic develop-ment are the two required elements of a Community Development Plan for which the state has indicated that Carlisle still needs more work. The other element that needed additional work was visioning, which has been addressed in part by the citizen survey and Community Planning Day both of which took place in March.

Visioning survey

The survey was intentionally open-ended (designed with more questions where respondents could write in their concerns, rather than selecting from a predefined set of options) to allow citizens to help define the range of topics to be discussed at Community Planning Day. For this reason and due to the relatively small response, the survey results are not statistically significant. However, 132 surveys were received and tabulated by Thomas Planning Associates. It is no surprise that generally speaking, respondents value the small-town feel of Carlisle, its rural landscape, preserved open space and conservation lands. Citizens want to maintain the quality of the schools but are concerned about the rate of increase in residential growth and rising taxes. Through-traffic and the lack of safe walkways are also concerns. A gathering place in the town center, whether a café, coffee shop, pub or community center, was a desire that cropped up pretty consistently.

Community Planning Day

Attendees at Community Planning Day, held on March 22, echoed many of the above sentiments. More importantly, citizens seemed to understand that Carlisle cannot stay as it is (or as it was 10 or 20 years ago), by wishing it so or by turning back the clock. There seemed to be strong agreement that Planning (with a capital P) is essential to give the town some control over its destiny.

Also in March, the consultants held interviews with representatives of many town boards and departments. The steering committee has met several times subsequently to review summaries prepared by the consultants of these interviews, survey responses and planning day.

Focus groups in June

After some delay, the state finally informed the Planning Board in late April that the remainder of the $30,000 approved under EO418 in January was officially available for continued work by our consultants. The committee is now moving forward with the focus groups on housing diversity and economic development. Details on these focus groups and how to participate will be forthcoming very soon. It is hoped that the focus groups will include lively discussions of the issues involved, ideally resulting in identifying some concrete goals and actions to implement them.

Summarizing the findings

The committee will then meet with the consultants again for a review of the focus groups, to define goals and draft recommendations for action on specific issues related to housing and economic development and to craft a town vision to be presented at a public meeting in the fall. Ultimately, the information gathered and action items developed will be brought together with the existing open space and resource protection plans and the regional transportation plans already approved by the state into a Community Development Plan which should meet state requirements.

Just the beginning

All this will be but a first step in the process. The town will then need to make specific decisions to move to a comprehensive plan and begin to take concrete steps to achieve both short- and long-term goals. With more 40B filings and ongoing development in the pipeline, the need for such thorough planning becomes more evident daily.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito