Friday, April 9, 2004
Carlisle's Community Development Plan
While the town is about to plan future use of the recently acquired Benfield Land, other town planning efforts are already underway. One example is a new Community Development Plan (CD Plan) being drafted by the Planning Board. This is a new type of study, designed by the state to encourage towns to better manage growth. Carlisle is smaller and more rural than most communities in Massachusetts, and the plan was designed with more urban towns in mind. I hope that Carlisle's CD Plan will include enough local input to reflect the needs and priorities of our town.
The Planning Board was awarded a state grant to fund consulting services to help write the plan. The board has hired Thomas Planning Services and McGregor & Associates to write the report, with guidance from a steering committee chaired by David Freedman of the Planning Board. The group worked hard to hold a very successful Community Planning Day last March where residents met to discuss concerns for the town's future.
Freedman said the CD Plan is "not a comprehensive plan." Rather, the state (via Executive Order 418) specified the plan focus on four areas: creation of affordable housing, natural resource preservation, traffic management, and business development. Under the category of housing, the guidelines ask Carlisle to recommend specific properties in town for future affordable housing developments. The steering committee met this week, with the goal of meeting the state's deadline of June 30 for completion of the plan.
One concern is that the CD Plan has been designed by the state and written largely by outside consultants. Carlisle's needs may not be accurately reflected in the document, unless care is taken to include public input throughout the planning process. Freedman said there were questions over whether there would be time to incorporate additional public review before the June deadline.
I hope that the steering committee will take all the time needed to have a thorough public review of the consultants' work, and to make any revisions necessary to the consultants' draft plan. We know from experience with past town litigation that our reports will be read and used by others. We need to make sure that we create a final plan that will serve Carlisle well.
Please be seated. Before we get started, I'm sure the first question you all want to ask is this: Can I quickly explain the pros and cons of the Benfield land purchase? Yes, I can. But you first have to realize that some of the pros are cons, and many cons can be pros if the con part of the equation is not viewed as a con but as a pro, as many land-use pros explain when they try to con you.
So which of the pros are cons, and which cons are pros? Simple. If a pro is not what it appears, then it's likely a con. Whereas, a con may have hidden benefits, which could make it a pro — unless the benefits are less than meet the eye.
Now, I know at this point you're wondering: Would it have been smarter for me to have attended Town Meeting and gotten better informed on this issue before pretending to write about it? Yes, absolutely. But we were out of bread and Ferns had already closed, so I had to drive all the way to Bedford and by the time I got back the school parking lot and all surrounding streets were parked up, and I had to go back to Bedford to find a parking spot. By the time I walked from Bedford to Corey, Town Meeting was over.
But, does that mean I won't give you my opinion anyway? No, it doesn't because opinions are the backbone of our democracy. Throughout our history, the government has always encouraged Americans to share their opinions openly so the FBI will know whom to spy on.
So, does that mean I'm going to keep asking myself questions as if this were a real give-and-take discussion instead of a one-sided monologue? You bet your Donald Rumsfeld I am. And will I also resort to referring to myself in the third person? Rick Blum would never do that.
Now that we've settled that, do I really have the scoop on the Benfield acquisition? Haven't we already established the fact that I'm an "opinion" columnist?
Is it OK to answer my own question with a question? Only if it makes you, dear reader, forget the original question.
Which was? See, it's working.
Well, we're running short on space, so you're probably wondering: Can I cut to the chase and maybe wrap this thing up already? You betcha. You see, it's like this. The Benfield land purchase is either a great deal because we can use CPA funds, or a bum deal because we will use CPA funds. Or a smart move because we get to preserve the land from developers. Or stupid because we're going to build a bunch of affordable housing on it anyhow. Or a needed acquisition to get more recreational space. Or just a traffic nightmare in the making. But the truth is that it really doesn't matter which of these you believe because OUR TAXES WILL GO UP, regardless. So why don't we all just chill out . . . and stop asking so many questions.
© 2004 The