The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 13, 2004

Why Carlisle needs affordable housing now

To the Editor:

A developer friend commented recently " Carlisle is a sitting duck for predator developers."

So called "predator developers" are companies who use Chapter 40B to construct high-end "lifestyle" rental apartment buildings, with the required percentage of affordable units to maximize the development. Usually these schemes comprise a minimum of 100 homes contained in several multi-storied buildings with m inimum design aesthetics, thus maximizing the profit for the company. Right across the Concord River in Bedford will be one such development: 139-unit housing scheme surrounded by wetland. The abutters have objected, but in vain. The property companies are working within the law, providing much needed affordable housing.

"It can't happen in Carlisle." Do not be fooled. Apparently one of the more aggressive developers has already been looking at sites in Carlisle.

Carlisle needs over 150 affordable units. This means that under Chapter 40B more than 600 homes can be developed, as only a quarter would need to be affordable. Both affordable and regular homes house single people, couples without children as well as families, so in reality the school enrollment should not rise by two per household as predicted in last week's letter to the Mosquito. However, such large developments would change Carlisle's character.

In order that Carlisle maintains the rural qualities that we currently enjoy, Carlisle will have to become a YIMBE ( Yes In My Back Yard), putting affordable housing development at the top of our agenda. If Carlisle controls the development we can also ensure that the development fits in to the rural context of the town. Affordable housing should not look like 'poor people's housing' that needs to be hidden from neighbors. For example, a project on the Benfield land could consist of different sized units and look like a series of farm buildings including barns that have evolved over time.

We can not stop further development in Carlisle, economics pressures will ensure it will happen. However with carefully planning, and by perhaps changing our zoning regulations we can control the size and scale of development, conserve our open land and maintain the town's character.

Debbie Bentley RIBA Associate AIA
Heald Road

Answers sought on land use

To the Editor:

As a resident of South Street I am very confused and concerned about the proposal for the town to purchase and develop Parcel A of the Benfield property, and wonder if the Mosquito might devote some space to clarifying the many questions around it.

How can voters be expected to evaluate a land purchase that has no concrete plans attached to it, and with no effective discussion of alternatives having taken place? From what I can gather, it sounds like a vote of yes on this purchase will pave the way for the "unrestricted" portion of this land to be developed largely as parking lots, supporting one or more ballfields and an apparently large number of rental units. Why are groups whose names include terms like "conservation," "preservation" and "land trust" apparently in favor of such a scenario?

And what happens if the town votes against the purchase? My understanding is that the property would then be sold to a private developer who has already been identified and who would develop it under the ANR [approval not required] plan, with five buildable lots on something like 21 acres. The remaining 27 acres will be permanently deeded as conservation land, without any cash outlay whatsoever required by the town. So it appears that the town stands to benefit from the Benfields' generosity regardless of whether it exercises the option to purchase. Isn't this an option that merits serious consideration?

Eugenia Harris
South Street

What is best for Carlisle?

To the Editor:

A group of citizens have organized in an effort to ensure that the best interests of the town can be served in consideration of plans for Parcel A of the Benfield properties on South Street. Leading up to the vote at Town Meeting on March 23 there will be a number of important meetings of town boards where consideration of large sums of taxpayer money - present and future - will be at issue.

Voters should be aware that 27 acres of land in Parcel A have been offered as a gift by the Benfield family trust to the Carlisle Conservation Foundation to be protected at no cost to the town by donation and deed restriction for open space and conservation. This is part of a larger ANR [approval not required] plan for limited development of all Benfield holdings which would gift and deed-restrict in perpetuity 84+ acres to conservation.

Carlisle residents have organized a group to support this generous gift at no cost to the town (taxpayer). This gift will require neither Carlisle Preservation Act funds nor other financial obligation by the town.

Town officials are currently considering an alternative proposal whereby the town would be obligated to pay a minimum of $2,000,000 to purchase the entire Parcel A in lieu of the offer to provide a gift. This would involve high-density development with unknown financial risks and undetermined future obligations on the part of the town.

If the Benfield gift of conservation and deed-restricted land goes forward as currently proposed, permanent deed restrictions for conservation will be placed on the Parcel A property limiting development to 5 single-family homes on 21 acres. This offer makes good financial sense for the people of Carlisle.

This gift carries on the Benfield family history of conservation and preservation of open space. Is it better for Carlisle to accept a gift at no cost to the town or to pay $2,000,000 to purchase the property?

We believe that acceptance of the gift makes excellent economic sense.

Mary H. DeGarmo, South Street,
Alan Carpenito, South Street,
Tarik and Steffi Samman,
Fifty Acre Way,
Paula and Stephen Trebino, Heald Road

Save Parcel A for conservation

To the Editor:

My mother Mrs. Hilda Larsen sold 45 acres of land to Mr. Ben Benfield with the assurance that it would only be for conservation.

We have lived on South Street for 80 years.

I am against any proposal to buy the land other than for conservation.

Inga L. MacRae
South Street

Ed Note: According to CCF representative Greg Peterson, Parcel A has no deed restrictions. A. E. Benfield purchased the land from the Larsen Estate in 1953.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito