The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 5, 2004

Carlisle's rescue personnel praised

To the Editor:

The Saylor family wishes to express our heartfelt thanks to all the Carlisle dispatchers, police, firefighters, and EMTs who came to our rescue when we had a fire at our house last week. It was amazing how promptly these professionals and volunteers managed to get to our house, fully equipped, in mere minutes, at 2 a.m. in bitterly cold February. Of three fire extinguishers that we could find in a hurry that night, only one worked, but it was enough for our 16-year-old son Ian to run back to the fire and put out the flames. The police and firefighters made sure that the smoldering wood did not re-ignite; thus our house was saved from further damage.

Although our son has second-degree burns on his hand which are very painful, we consider ourselves lucky that the fire was contained to one room. We urge everyone to check their existing fire extinguishers to make sure they still hold their full charge. Some seem to have a limited shelf life. We think owning several is a great idea. As soon as we finish this letter we are off to a store to buy replacement fire extinguishers.

We have nothing but high praise for our Fire Chief Dave Flannery and the highly professional and properly equipped staff that make up our Carlisle "Rescue Hero" team.

Alison and Mike Saylor
Maple Street

Give seniors a tax break

To the Editor:

Carlisle is a beautiful town to live in. It took a lot of work over the years to change the town from a small farming community to the place it is to live in today, with two-acre zoning and million-dollar homes. The state park, town recreation land and at least 50 miles of trails all help to make this a worthwhile place to own a home.

In the last 25 years, we increased the size and quality of the school system, built a new fire station, police station, town hall and enlarged the library. All this, of course, benefits the newcomers and is the primary reason for their moving here. These improvements have caused the taxes in town to more than double in the last quarter century.

The increase in taxes seems reasonable to people who have moved to town in the last 5 years but for us old timers the new taxes have created hardship. We who retired 20 years ago, did so on incomes that were reasonable for the economy at that time but today are inadequate.

The major increase in taxes is due to the increase in the cost of schooling. The new people argue that it is reasonable for old timers to help pay for the schooling of youngsters today, since all the people in town helped pay for the education of their youngsters.This appears to be a reasonable argument but it has one major fallacy. It costs the oldsters twice as much to pay for the education of a child today than it did when their children were in school. But the retirees income has not increased commensurately with the increase in schooling costs. For this reason, we should receive a significant decrease in our taxes.

After making the town a desirable place to live in over the years, elders can no longer afford to live here.

Give the old timers a big thank you and "put your money where your mouth is". Give them a tax break so that they can remain in town and enjoy what they helped to create.

Hal Shneider
Bingham Road

Writer questions the Patriot Act

To the Editor,

I find myself deeply disturbed by the USA PATRIOT Act on many grounds, not least of which is the way it makes it easier for government to keep files on its citizens. The argument for doing so is persuasive: the FBI, CIA, and other federal law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies need greater flexibility in order to protect us from terrorism. In order to act quickly and decisively, they cannot be inhibited by lots of complicated restrictions and oversight requirements.

The problem is that such restrictions and oversight requirements are needed to remove the temptation of abuse of power, one of the main concerns of the Founding Fathers. It was a fear of abuse of power that caused them to write the Constitution as they did, including in it an obligation for each branch of government to interfere with and oversee the functions of the others. It also caused them to add the Bill of Rights, which limits the power of the government to interfere with the rights of the people.

At present, the "oversight" of many of the more controversial sections of the bill is limited to a biannual report by the Executive to a select group of Congress (which appears to be overdue), and the main restriction on the abuse of any power granted is the good intentions of the Executive. This is not enough for me, nor was it enough for the Founding Fathers. Many of the restrictions placed upon law enforcement and intelligence agencies were codified in the wake of the Nixon administration and the Watergate scandal, which exposed how the Executive could abuse power if left alone. H. R. 3162 has removed many of those restrictions, opening the door to a future Administration to spy upon "ordinary" citizens who just happen to disagree with it.

It is for this reason, and others too numerous to go into here, that I support the warrant article in against the impingement of civil liberties found in the Act. I urge all citizens of Carlisle to join us in support at the annual Town Meeting.

Charles F. Schweppe
School Street

Cultural Council expanding activities

To the Editor:

The Carlisle Cultural Council extends asincere thank youto the enthusiastic audiences that attended its February series of readings and performances. The series was topped off last week by a thought-provoking — and often hilarious — talk by Concord novelist Gregory Maguire, author of the best-selling novel Wicked. The Maguire lecture was co-sponsored by the Friends of the Gleason Library.

The Council was heartened to see such a warm response to its other programs, including a performance by an internationally acclaimed family of Balinese dancers and a poetry reading featuring local scribes. The Council is gearing up for more exciting events that celebrate local history and culture. This summer, the Council teams up with theGleason Library again to present "North American Birds of Prey,'' an entertaining educational program for school-aged children and their parents, as well as a juggling show and workshop. We welcome participation and suggestions from community members as we aim to expand our activities in the coming year.

Patti Hartigan and Elissa Abruzzo
Carlisle Cultural Council

CPACom supports purchase of Benfield Parcel A

To the Editor:

Under the Community Preservation Act, it is the responsibility of the Community Preservation Committee to make recommendations to Town Meeting about the use of CPA funds.

The CPC has determined that it is in the town's best interest to recommend the use of CPA funds to purchase the Benfield property, but on the following terms: 26 acres would be designated for Open Space (conservation/passive recreation) uses and the remaining 19 acres would be designated for Open Space (active recreation) and Community Housing (affordable housing) purposes; provided that (1) no more than one athletic field and no more than 26 housing units would be allowed, (2) any actual development, as opposed to a use designation, would require Town Meeting approval, and (3) a one-year planning process would occur to present for Town Meeting approval a more detailed master plan. Because of the requirements under the CPA, a default plan locates specific areas which has the potential to be used for open space, active recreation and housing. If Town Meeting fails to adopt the master plan after one year, the default plan will be triggered.

Over the past several weeks, since CCF offered to sell its rights to purchase the Benfield Parcel A to the town, the CPC has deliberated what recommendation would best meet the town's objectives, expressed through town planning days, municipal land committee recommendations and past town meetings, that the town needed land that could serve multiple town purposes, not just conservation. Accordingly, after many public meetings and discussions with selectmen, finance committee members, abutters, CCF members and other townspeople, we feel that this proposal is a responsible recommendation for the use of limited public funds that addresses town needs without unduly burdening the neighborhood and which includes requirements for multiple approvals before any development occurs. We are grateful to the CCF for presenting this opportunity to the town.

The final form of the motion which sets out these objectives is still in progress, with significant details about financing and planning yet to be completed. Due to the short time left before the Special Town Meeting on March 23, we felt communication to the town as a whole needed to begin.

Community Preservation Committee
Caren Ponty, chair
John Ballantine
Jack Bromley
David Chaffin
Alan Deary
John Lee
Phyllis Zinicola

Ed note: The Community Preservation Committee is a representative body composed of one member of the Board of Selectmen, one member from the Planning Board, one member from the Housing Authority, one member from the Conservation Commission, one member from the Recreation Commission, one member from the Historic Commission and one at large member (appointed by the Board of Selectmen).

It's a bargain

To the Editor:

Many folks have asked for more discussion of why the Benfield land purchase makes economic sense. Consider this.

Start with the land value. A residential developer willing to put in a subdivision road could easily have built 12 or more homes. A commercial 40B developer

(such as Avalon Bay, now active in Bedford) with the expertise and capital to do a package sewage treatment plant and community well might have proposed a 150-200 unit complex. The land is big enough and dry enough to support such uses, and would easily have been worth $4 to $5 million at wholesale.

Happily for the town, the Benfields generously agreed to forego maximum value, limit development to 5 ANR lots, and conserve portions of the parcel, albeit with restricted public access. As confirmed by the town's own appraisal, the fair market value of the land under that scenario is about $1.95 million at wholesale.

The proposed purchase would be financed with monies from the Community Preservation Act fund, half of which comes in matching funds from the state. To date we have received nearly $500,000 in state matching funds. So, even if we never receive another penny in state matching funds, the net cost (exclusive of interest payments) paid by us will be about $1.5 million. Best case, the match continues and our net cost is $1 million.

For that $1 million to $1.5 million in local tax cost, we get land for a ballfield, land for 26 units of clustered, middle-class, community housing (every unit of which can count toward our 40B goal, unlike private developments where only 25% count), protect the vast majority of the property as open space, including buffers for abutters, and enable much greater public access to the site as a whole. All on land whose true economic value is at least three to four times greater.

That doesn't just make economic sense, it's a bargain.

Wayne Davis
Concord Street
board member, Carlisle Conservation Foundation

South Street is a bad location for ballfields

To the Editor:

Over the last few weeks, as residents of the South Street area have scrambled to understand the terms and implications of the town's proposed purchase of Benfield Parcel A, we've been subjected to many lectures on the merits of affordable housing, similar in tone to that presented in last week's Forum piece by David Freedman.

Speaking in support of the purchase, Freedman frames it as a moral question, his premise being that opposition to the purchase proceeds from opposition to affordable housing. This is a specious argument.

If it's "morally wrong to sidestep these questions," as Freedman says, then is there any moral basis for being opposed to the bogeyman of 40B, which is specifically designed as an aid to the creation of affordable housing? Is town-developed affordable housing more moral than privately developed affordable housing?

In point of fact there appears to be little opposition to limited affordable housing within the South Street community, and the grounds for objecting to this purchase in fact lie elsewhere.

For starters, South Street is clearly an inappropriate location for ballfields. It is a small back country road in a residential neighborhood, whereas ballfields should be sited on major roads, preferably on land already purchased by the town for this purpose. The only argument to support the siting of ballfields on South Street come from RecCom representatives claiming that they have an immediate need for 4-6 additional playing fields with nowhere to put them. Your small back country road could be next.

Second, there are unspecified future tax obligations involved in this purchase, not least of which is the forced continuation of the 2% CPA property tax surcharge for an additional five-year term.

Finally, the process itself is murky to the point of unintelligibility. The seller's intentions are unknown, there is disagreement among town boards, and the townspeople most directly affected by the purchase have been largely excluded from the deliberations. Freedman chooses to characterize the latter situation as "regrettably unavoidable," yet our names, addresses and phone numbers are in fact in the book.

Eugenia Harris
South Street

Have a riotious, noisy debate

To the Editor-

I recently read about the upcoming work the town meeting needs to do regarding the Benfield lands on South Street via the Mosquito's website. As a young man I spent quite a bit of time with Alice Koford, working around the house, mowing the lawn, clearing land and listening to her talk about the town in the early part of the 20th century and where she thought things were going. Her advice was to "get into computers" — I did and I am still amazed at her foresight in the early 1970's.

The 150 acres at the intersection of West and South streets was the Koford family farm from the 1880's. In the early 1960's the farm was sold by the court to Mr. Benfield who sold the farmstead back to Alice and 5 acres to my parents. The house that they built and still live in is where I, my two brothers and a large gang of friends grew up. Mr. Benfield was a major force for conservation while I grew up and he practiced what he preached, at home, in our corner of town giving us a place to roam and enjoy the wild outside.

One part of me wishes that spaces of my youth were never to change but I remember Alice Koford telling me "young people have got to live too..." She remembered well the struggle of starting out on your own as a young Carlislean back in 1918 and I don't imagine that things have changed much.

So, in short, I have no advice to the town on how to best balance conservation space, affordable housing and the generosity of the Benfield family. But have a riotious, noisy debate on the subject in the full glory of democracy, Town Meeting style! Avoid the fate of our forefathers, who in the 1750's, while debating the split from Concord, fell into such discord and anger, that they felt the need to attend Town Meeting armed... and you wiII do all right.

Nicholas Fohl
San Francisco, CA

Process is flawed

To the Editor:

On March 23 of this year the voters of Carlisle are going to be asked to approve the expenditure of $2 million for a land purchase. While the permitted uses under the CPA may be circumscribed, these funds are still town money. Additional sums for related improvements are certain to be needed. The very magnitude of this proposal makes a careful evaluation not only practical but mandatory. Is the Town offered the opportunity for a proper review of the underlying plans — such as they exist — or are we under the gun not to miss a sale?

When, as was stated, the negotiation between the CCF and the seller took 2-1/2 years, it seems preposterous to ask the voters to decide in little more than two months, when serious issues pertaining to the eventual use, legal constraints (wetlands), traffic issues and neighborhood concerns have hardly been touched on or addressed. There are threats of options running out. Be clear about this: these are contracts between two private entities, the seller and CCF. The Town cannot — and I hope has not — made any commitments absent voter approval.

Very substantial benefits to the Town will be realized without the purchase by the benevolence of the Benfield family, whose long stewardship of the land is exemplary. They in turn are going to be made whole by the ANR plan.

How did we get to this predicament of a deeply-flawed timing process? In 2001 the town adopted under Chapter 44B, Article 3.26.3 Community Preservation Committee (CPACom), stating "...committee shall hold one or more public hearings yearly...". According to town records, no public hearing was held in 2002. The addition of "yearly" to our law, which is not in the state law, may have been well-intentioned. It might provide for a periodic update of CPAcom activity. However, it serves no safeguarding purpose since the public meeting can occur at any time unrelated to acquisition plans. I urge the Selectmen to rectify this by an amendment article in the Warrant specifying a six-month period between a public CPAcom meeting and the vote on proposed acquisitions.

George H. Lohrer
South Street

Thoughts on recent letters

To the Editor:

I had the good fortune to know Kay Kulmala, honored citizen of Carlisle, former editor of the Mosquito and long-time Planning Board member. As a friend and member of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation I had a part in the planning and execution of her plans for the gift of land and house that she gave the town. Without qualification, she would have been delighted with the outcome.

Letters to the Editor reflect current concerns over the additional wonderful land gift of the Benfields, with comparatively minimal financial outlay by use of Community Preservation Act funds. There is a healthy portion of the land to be put into conservation and there has been no overt criticism of the possibility of affordable housing there — I'm proud!

The proposed ballfield, leaving the land unencumbered by buildings, could be a lasting source of healthy endeavor and a lot of fun for us all.

As to the worry about increased traffic, where isn't there?

Eunice Knight
Bedford Road

Response to comments on Benfield land sale

To the Editor:

As someone who has worked to protect open space in Carlisle since 1968, I was quite surprised by the "information" contained in the letter by Marge and Ned Berube in the February 27 Mosquito. Although not a board member of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF), I am thoroughly familiar with the proposed acquisition of the Benfield Parcel "A," and would like to correct some of the apparently widespread misconceptions concerning this proposal.

First, the money for this acquisition ($1.85 million, not $2.2), if approved by Town Meeting, will all come from present and future revenues from the Community Preservation Act (CPA) 2% surtax, plus state matching contributions, which the town voted to assess in 2001 and reaffirmed in 2002. No new taxes! Revenues so collected, under the terms of the CPA, can only be spent for open space preservation (including recreation), "community" (including "affordable") housing, and historic preservation. How better to use this money than for the purchase of Parcel A? There, on one 45-acre parcel, we can protect a spectacular field and streamside, provide our youth with a badly needed soccer field, and begin to meet our obligations under the state's affordable housing law, and thus defend Carlisle against a massive 40B development.

If the town turns down this opportunity, the fate of the property is in the hands of CCF. Under the original five-lot ANR plan, which might be a fall-back, 14.6 acres, almost all of it wetland, would become open space. Another 12 acres, including the field along South Street, would comprise privately owned no-build zones. The beautiful interior field would, in all likelihood, be converted into the front yards of two large new houses.

Finally, the Berubes' reference to "gifts like those provided by Kay Kulmala reshuffled to meet ends never intended by the original grantors" is simply untrue.

Kay's gift of her six-acre property on Russell Street for conservation or other civic purposes resulted in a fine and fitting legacy, namely a permanent conservation restriction on the property, a public trail from the street to the back of the land, and most of the funding for the preservation of 34 acres of the Malcolm land on Stearns Street, with senior housing on the remaining four acres.

Kenneth J. Harte
Estabrook Road

Don't miss Fiddler on the Roof

To the Editor:

If you have not yet seen Fiddler on the Roof at CCHS, and tickets are still available, go! You don't have to venture to the Big City to see first-class musical theater. Mr. Chuck Brown and fellow teachers continue to direct the students beyond their best. The kids excel be they actors, dancers, singers, tech crew, backstage support, or more than one of the above. It's all too easy to forget that the professional "pit" orchestra is in fact all adolescent musicians. Parents and other patrons have provided support in all the ways it takes to make a superb production.

No taxpayer can consider themselves fully informed unless they experience this slice of life at CCHS, and see what results are possible. And every taxpayer should ask: if we did not provide such opportunities for our teens, what would they be doing instead with their vast talents and energies?

Melissa Weiksnar
Robbins Drive

Children's party collected donations for Lowell shelter

To the Editors:

This is an enthusiastic thank you to everyone at our Valentine's party on February 13 at Union Hall. In total the kindergarten and third-grade classmates of our children, Lucy and Matthew Hill, donated 31 new infant outfits and 18 packages of school snacks to the children staying at House of Hope, a temporary shelter in Lowell. Along with several generous checks, these items were dropped off at House of Hope on Valentine's Day.

Entertainment at the party was provided by The Lucky Show. Lucky Bob is a juggler/magician who thrilled and entertained about 75 children and parents. Some children had the chance to assist with magic tricks and helped get the audience laughing and clapping, with a few added "oohs" and "aahs" at the right moments.

Thanks for helping make the party a success by providing gifts for children in need. In turn, the Carlisle children (and their grownups) had a fun get-together.

Ann Jackson Hill and Shannon Hill
Buttrick Lane

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito