The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 3, 2004


Status report on the Community Development Plan project

In early 2003, Carlisle received a commitment from the state under Executive Order 418 (EO418) for $30,000 in funding to complete a Community Development Plan (CDP) with the assistance of planning consultants from Thomas Planning Services and McGregor & Associates. A CDP Steering Committee was formed including members of the Planning Board, Housing Authority, Community Preservation Act (CPA) Committee, Conservation Commission, and the Carlisle Conservation Foundation.

Meeting and focus groups

With the support of the local League of Women Voters, a well-attended "Community Planning Day," facilitated by the consultants, was held in March 2003. This led to the development of a Vision Statement intended to guide master planning efforts and citizen involvement towards fulfilling the vision of where Carlisle wants to be in the future. The Vision Statement addresses natural resource protection, housing diversity, and community assets from strong volunteer participation to schools and recreation facilities.

Following suggestions from Community Planning Day, the committee put the main focus of the EO418 work on the housing component of the CDP with emphasis on assessing housing needs and crafting a plan for developing affordable housing in Carlisle. Two lively focus groups, one on housing diversity and the other on economic development, were held in June 2003.

Incomplete housing plan

Soon after these focus groups, one of the lead planning consultants left his firm to become a full-time municipal planner. Difficulties in maintaining clear communication with the remaining consultant plagued the project over the ensuing year, leaving the town with an incomplete draft report on housing. The draft report does include a discussion of the economic constraints on maintaining, much less improving, housing diversity in Carlisle, where land prices exceed $500,000 per building lot, teardowns of modest homes are ongoing, and new houses list for over $1,000,000.

At the end of June 2004, the CDP Steering Committee informed the state that the town had terminated its contract with the planning consultant. The town refused to approve invoiced amounts from the consultant for about one third of the original $30,000 contract. Though this meant the town lost access to this funding for planning which still was needed, the committee concluded that it would not be a wise use of state funds to continue with this particular consultant.

How do we get to a moratorium?

In March 2004, committee members were instrumental in getting town approval for the purchase, supported by CPA funds, of a 45-acre parcel for which plans are being developed for open space, recreation and affordable housing.

However, for the town to get credit for any affordable housing that would be built on that land there are several steps under regulations adopted by the DHCD (Department of Housing & Community Development). These Chapter 40B Guidelines for Planned Production can give a community a moratorium on dealing with comprehensive permit applications (such as the one that resulted in Laurel Hollow). Requirements include developing a plan, officially adopting it (presumably at Town Meeting), the Selectmen submitting the plan to DHCD for approval, receiving DHCD approval (within 90 days of submission), actually permitting and building affordable housing units equal to at least 0.75% of the total housing units in the community, and then requesting DHCD certification of compliance with the plan for a particular calendar year.

Another focus group for specific sites

Requirements for an "approvable" plan include defining housing needs and setting goals to meet them, identifying specific sites for housing, plus possible modifications in land-use regulations to accomplish the affordable housing production goals.

The CDP committee hopes to address these requirements, specifically the one about identifying specific sites, in a focus group this fall that will aim to identify additional parcels in town as possible locations for the development of affordable housing. They also plan a presentation, with the planning board, late this fall to the selectmen on the visioning, proposed housing strategies, and other aspects of the work the committee managed to accomplish over the past year and a half.

Housing strategies

The CDP Steering Committee continues to work on a community development plan. They have developed a comprehensive table of Housing Strategies for Carlisle. This includes recommendations :

• to revitalize the Housing Authority and Municipal Land Committee,

• to create a nonprofit Housing Trust and nonprofit housing corporation,

• to educate the public about affordable housing issues from Smart Growth to 40B,

• to make presentations to landowners of large parcels about the environmental and financial planning benefits of concentrated development in conjunction with conservation,

• to evaluate new zoning initiatives and revisions to existing bylaws,

• to establish guidelines and goals for a Local Initiative Program whereby the town would solicit proposals from developers for "friendly" 40B developments on specific parcels or meeting specified criteria,

• to suggest targets for CPA funding.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito