Friday, June 18, 2004
Neighbor complains about "ugly" church bell and sign
When the Carlisle Congregational Church submitted their original site plan, there were no funds available to mount and display the church's antique bell and it was tucked away inside the rear entrance. Recently some members of the church donated funds to have the bell relocated to the circular island outside the front entrance. This bell dates back to 1867 and was originally in the old church building next to the town common, so it has special meaning to some of the old time members. Barbara Maxwell, church historian, recalls when it used to be rung in beautiful harmony with the bell in the Unitarian Church on Sunday mornings.
For those who haven't driven by the Congregational Church on School Street recently, the bell is displayed on a simple wooden support, surrounded by a bed of daylilies, and bracketed on either side by arborvitae and some low evergreen shrubs in front. Since this was not on the original site plan, Kirk Ware, chairman of the Congregational Church Board of Trustees, appeared before the Selectmen at their June 15 meeting to request an amendment to the site plan.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and neighbor Carol White of School Street voiced her displeasure over the appearance of the bell, the steeple and the sign. She described the bell as "ugly" and found the "plastic steeple" unbefitting "a small country road."
After a delay in fundraising, the church purchased a 36-inch by 47-inch sign identifying the church, listing the minister's names and the time of the church services. This sign meets the requirements of the Carlisle zoning bylaw and is installed where it was shown on the original site plan. The sign, which sits 60 feet back from the road and is internally lit by a small fluorescent light, replaces a similar taller sign that had been on the site for 30 years. Trustee Ware requested that the Selectmen approve the new sign and also the use of internal lighting, rather than an external source such as a spotlight.
"The sign is right at the end of my driveway," White lamented. Citing her 29 years at the present address, she expressed dismay at her loss of property value and quality of life because of the bell, sign, lights, plastic steeple, and inadequate landscaping to block the view and asked the Selectmen for whatever protection could be afforded by the town. Ware, who was painfully aware of the $40,000 that the church has spent on landscaping, was reluctant to add to what is already becoming a botanic garden. Selectman Tony Allison offered to contribute three large rhododendrons from his yard, but Ware doubted that they would resolve the situation even if he could find enough space to plant them.
Decision next week
White challenged the Selectmen to visit the site. This seemed like a good idea, and also gave the board some breathing room before having to resolve the situation. Chair Tim Hult promised that they will make a decision on the revised site plan at the next meeting on June 22.
© 2004 The