Friday, March 19, 2004
Selectmen sign P&S for Benfield Parcel A Two disagree with current motion wording
Approximately fifteen residents of the South Street neighborhood surrounding Parcel A of the Benfield Property, including one in her nineties, braved a considerable snowstorm to attend the Selectmen's meeting on Tuesday. They once again expressed opposition to the plan championed by the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAcom), to be voted on at a Special Town Meeting Tuesday, which calls for a ballfield and affordable housing to be sited on the land. Of additional concern was an e-mail distributed by the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) which the neighbors believe gives a false sense of overwhelming support by town committees.
The untimely death of Selectman Vivian Chaput last week and the recusal of Selectman Tim Hult from Benfield discussions left only three board members to sign the purchase and sale agreement for the land. The motion to be presented at Town Meeting was not available, explained Chair John Ballantine, as "town counsel had a lot of changes and we need a little time to take a look at it," but he added the changes were intended to "make the language more general." Of issue is to what degree intended uses for the land should be defined within the motion versus leaving the issue open for a planning process to take place after the purchase.
Selectmen split on motion
Selectman Doug Stevenson announced he would sign the P&S but, "I'm not willing to support the motion" as it existed in the last draft. He said he had hoped for "an open and fair process that doesn't bake-in the outcome" and believed the motion put forward by the CPAcom did not fulfill that goal. Selectman Tony Allison joined him in that opinion, and added, "Town Meeting is the appropriate forum to discuss this" and a P&S was needed to get the issue before Town Meeting.
Ballantine expressed support for the motion and pointed to a long process to get input from various boards and reach a compromise. "No one's happy in this process, but to some extent that's what compromise is." He added, "We'll hear what Town Meeting says and go forward from there."
Benfield neighbors weigh in
Alan Carpenito of South Street pointed to three Benfield abutters who, he said, were not informed of the plan until it was about to be announced in the Mosquito. Ballantine noted the project couldn't be made public while it was in the process of negotiation "like any private land transaction." Allison conceded the ninety-day timeframe defined on the option to purchase "Was not enough time to absorb and discuss."
Ray Kubacki of South Street took issue with an e-mail sent by the CCF which said in part that the Selectmen, FinCom, Planning Board, Housing Authority, RecCom, ConsCom and CPAcom "all strongly endorse town purchase of Benfield Parcel A and its use for multiple community purposes." Kubacki noted, "I didn't think y'all [selectmen] took a vote and if not, this is a breach of ethics."
In January the Selectmen voted unanimously to purchase Parcel A
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie noted the Selectmen had taken a unanimous vote to pursue the purchase in early January, before a motion was drafted. Mary DeGarmo of South Street produced another letter from Art Milliken of the CCF which spoke of Selectmen support for the motion, which the selectmen have not voted on and do not presently expect to support. McKenzie suggested the Selectmen ask the CCF for a retraction before Town Meeting.
As the Selectmen called for a recess to call Milliken and discuss a retraction, ninety-year-old Inga MacRae of South Street presented a letter which began, "I invite you all to come and look out of my bedroom window to see how close you plan this ballfield. I am devastated by what you are doing to one of the oldest residents in the town of Carlisle." Stevenson noted he had seen the field from McRae's living room and "I do share some of her concerns."
When the Selectmen returned, Ballantine explained that Milliken "did not understand the board of selectmen's positions" of signing the purchase and sale but not supporting the motion. As a result, the Selectmen agreed to draft their own letter to send to the Mosquito (see Letters, page 14).
The Selectmen signed the purchase and sale and will vote on the motion just before the Special Town Meeting. Ballantine called the meeting to a close, "We'll have plenty of time to debate this in a week" at the Special Town Meeting on Tuesday.
© 2004 The