Friday, February 13, 2004
CPA Committee hears many opinions on Parcel A motion
"Specificity" was the word of the day at the February 4 meeting of the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAcom) at Town Hall. Committee members debated the levels of specificity in a draft motion to purchase 45 acres, Parcel A, of the Benfield land. The final motion will be presented for approval at a Special Town Meeting on March 23. (See article starting page 1.)
In order to use Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to purchase the Benfield land, the Board of Selectmen must submit an application to the CPAcom, describing the project and its purposes, projected costs, its impact on Carlisle's services and a statement on how this project helps preserve Carlisle's character. John Ballantine, the Selectmen's represen-tative to the CPAcom, presented a draft application to the committee for review.
CPAcom Chair Caren Ponty pointed out that an agreement between the Selectmen and the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF), under which the town would purchase and take title to the land now under CCF option, must be signed before the CPAcom can approve the application. According to Ballantine, a draft agreement is being reviewed by the CCF and Town Counsel.
In reviewing the application, Allen Deary of the Recreation Commission questioned the level of specificity on playing fields, pointing out that the CPAcom has not discussed the location of the fields. Would restrictions on the amount of land and location place constraints on the master plan (to be presented to the 2005 Town Meeting)? John Lee of the Conservation Commission suggested that "the natural layout of the land would dictate where things go."
In answer to a question on "public process" in developing a master plan, Ballantine explained that a commission or task force would be appointed. He emphasized that funding for the planning process will be presented in a separate motion from the acquisition motion.
Discussion of motion
In its motion, the CPAcom will recommend that the town purchase the Benfield Parcel A, with certain stipulations on the number of acres designated for open space, community housing (working toward the goal of meeting state affordable housing requirements), and active recreation. In discussion of a draft motion developed by planning board member Phyllis Zinicola, the housing section drew the most concern. If separate town funds were used to pay for housing costs, a separate motion would be required, since the principal motion is based on use of CPA funds.
The level of specificity within the motion raised concern. If the language is too specific concerning housing and recreation and Town Meeting rejects the purchase, can housing be acquired anyway? Greg Peterson, CCF director, said from the audience, "Just because the designated lands are spelled out doesn't mean that Town Meeting will vote the funds. We need an open planning process down the road."
Ballantine pointed out that "if the motion is not specific, we can't do mixed housing," but housing could be funded outside of CPA. Several variables on housing were debated: cost of building, number of units, rental or not, "affordable" housing versus "community housing" (each requires different ranges of income), and above all, where would the funds for housing come from? The answers await a decision by the Finance Committee in a joint meeting with the CPAcom scheduled for February 11.
From the audience Wayne Davis of the CCF asked to whom the master planning task force would report. "This committee's (CPAcom's) power is to hold hearings and recommend projects for funding," he pointed out. Whoever the task force reports to will make the planning recommendation to the 2005 Town Meeting.
Maureen Tarca of the RecCom asked whether abutters to the Benfield land have had a chance to give their input. At that point, Alan Carpenito of South Street, an abutter, spoke from the audience and expressed his opposition to a multi-use parcel, citing traffic concerns and the impact on Carlisle schools. Carpenito read a letter from Inga MacRae of South Street "objecting to any proposal to buy the land for other than conservation." MacRae's mother had "sold 45 acres of land to Ben Benfield with the assurance that it would be only for conservation." Ponty apologized for not having contacted abutters, and announced a previously scheduled public meeting on Wednesday, February 25, at 8 p.m. in Town Hall for which abutters will be notified. Art Milliken of the CCF announced a neighborhood meeting scheduled for Sunday, February 22.
Ken Harte of the CCF urged the CPAcom not to ask the selectmen for other funding. "It would be back to square one to go back to the boards and educate the public," he said. "We can make it work with CPA funds. Let's go ahead and not look back."
© 2004 The