Friday, March 26, 2004
The town does the right thing
Maybe it wasn't necessary to get to Town Meeting by 6:30 p.m. as I had advised most of my friends, but at least we did not have to stand in a long line that extended out the door and down the steps leading into the Corey building. Waiting for registered voters to check in and finally find a seat in the auditorium, Town Moderator Tom Raftery was unable to call the meeting to order until 7:30, a half-hour later than the announced starting time.
The Special Town Meeting had been called to approve the purchase of the 45-acre Benfield Parcel "A" property on South Street for open space, affordable housing and recreation uses. It could have been contentious, especially if you had been reading recent letters to the editor in the Mosquito, but it wasn't. After rejecting a request to vote on the motion by secret ballot, the meeting moved forward with presentations by the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) and representatives of town boards and committees. All of the boards, except for the depleted board of selectmen (due to a sudden death and a recusal), were in support of the motion to acquire the Benfield Parcel.
Many different points of view were expressed by voters from the floor throughout the evening. The words of Heald Road resident Debbie Bentley, housing authority member Alan Lehotsky and planning board member Dan Holzman were impressive. As Holzman, a civil engineering consultant to developers expressed it, the town should not buy the property to just keep the 40Bs at bay, we should do it because it is the right thing to do.
After many presentations and a lengthy discussion, conducted in mostly polite and civil tones on both sides of the issue, the Town was ready to vote at approximately 10:30. We were reminded by the moderator that a two-thirds vote was necessary to pass the motion. After hands were raised high for the tellers to count, the final numbers were announced — 395 in favor and 185 against — a close vote to acquire the land. The remaining six motions were passed easily with little discussion and the meeting was adjourned by 11 p.m.
As I headed out the door, making my way back to our car on School Street, I couldn't help but think of the many long hours, thousands of hours, that the members of our volunteer town government and members of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation had spent making the purchase of the Benfield property become a reality. For approximately ten weeks leading up the Town Meeting, the CPC, the selectmen, the finance committee, CCF, and townspeople on both sides of the issue met night after night. Walks on the Benfield property were conducted by CCF members on both days of each weekend leading up to the Town Meeting.
Selectman John Ballantine expressed it so well when he said, "Change is coming to Carlisle. Change is difficult, but this change is an opportunity to manage our future...." The town voted for change, thanks to the generosity of the Benfield family, the efforts of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation and town officials who made this happen. And let's not forget our recently deceased Town Selectman Vivian Chaput. Before her death, she too had worked hard to make this happen.
Hopefully, concerns of the South Street residents can be addressed by the year-long Benfield Parcel planning committee that will be appointed by the selectmen.
The special Carlisle connection
My daughter was home on a college break last week. I hadn't seen her for over a month. She looks older, more mature, and, I'm sure after paying her tuition bills, smarter as well.
A bunch of her friends ended up at our house on Saturday night. I have always encouraged gatherings at my house; I actually like to talk to my kids' friends and it's nice to know where they are and what they are doing. I've known these kids for years. As they each gave brief updates on how their lives were going, I couldn't help notice how grown up they all are. They're poised and articulate. Each has a unique story, as they are all headed in different directions. One is going to be a teacher, one an engineer, some are still deciding. Yet as they travel forward defining who they are, they still relate to each other as they always have. It's comforting to me, and I'm sure to them as well, that when they come back to Carlisle, they can still call each other, get together and have some laughs.
The initial group soon expanded. The door opened and closed several times. The infamous cell phone hotline makes it so easy to let people know who is gathering where. The updates continued. Kids played pool. They devoured food. A few talked about moving, and it was sad to think that some of these friends might not be coming home to Carlisle next year or the year after.
But even if the venue and contact frequency changes, I think there will always be a special bond among the Carlisle kids. Having grown up here has given them a certain sense of comfort that I'm not sure all kids feel. As different as they all have grown to be, and as much as they have changed, they still have that special connection that is hard to describe but deeply felt. It is still easy to call someone they haven't seen in awhile, grab some dinner, play a few games, laugh, and share stories and secrets.
Thinking back to that initial gathering of my daughter and her friends, I am reminded of their Girl Scout years. My fellow leaders and I took them camping and caroling, they cleaned up Carlisle Castle, blazed some trails, and had a lot of fun. I realized that some of my own closest friendships came about due to my daughters' activities and friends. Through my daughters, I have met some of the nicest people and still socialize with them today. Despite our busy lives, we still call each other, share stories, and laugh over coffee or dinner. Some people believe that Carlisle, with its two acre zoning and lack of a booming town center lends itself to people feeling isolated. I, however, believe that because of the size and nature of the town, people are more apt to actively seek out activities, friendships and opportunities. We have to really work to make things happen. As a result, there are committed volunteers on town committees, active school supporters and a sense of community. I believe the nature of the town lends itself to healthy and long-lasting social connections. It's a nice place to be a kid — or an adult.
© 2004 The