The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 17, 2004


Tomorrow is Benfield Land planning day Task force invites community input

Map shows the current site plan under discussion for the town-owned Benfield Land off South Street. (Adapted by Hal Shneider from a map provided by Russell Dion)

Be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, September 18 (tomorrow) and Sunday, October 3. The Benfield Task Force will be hosting two Planning Days to present their vision of affordable housing and active recreation on Benfield Parcel A on South Street and to get feedback from the town's citizenry. Chair John Ballantine called the task force members together once again on September 8 to identify any remaining issues and set the Planning Day agenda.

Consultants needed

Ballantine first distributed draft copies of three Request for Quotations (RFQs) for designer services on the proposed multi-unit, multi-family affordable housing development. The first RFQ authorizes a $5,000 designer's fee for someone to develop marketing and demand analysis, generate a housing unit program matrix, and propose a unit size and ownership structure. Another RFQ provides $15,000 to develop a master site plan with housing layouts and schematic building elevations and cost estimates. A third RFQ allows $5,000 to review and evaluate new traffic generation, curb-cut accesses, intersections, sight lines, and physical conditions, with associated cost estimates. Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie will publish the RFQs as soon as final edits are complete.

The Planning Day agenda calls for a three-hour meeting this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon in the Clark Room of the Town Hall. The September 18 meeting will feature an hour-long presentation by various members of the task force on their results to date. Those attending will then form four to five breakout groups (more if needed) of eight to ten people, each group hosted by a facilitator to manage the discussion. At the end of the breakout session, the groups will return to the Clark Room to review the results and issues.

Agenda for Planning Day

Ballantine plans to kick off the first Planning Day meeting with an overview of the objectives and issues surrounding the Parcel A complex. Russ Dion will then present a site description and identify the buildable areas on the property. RecCom representative Allen Deary expects to outline the recreation needs of the town and will present his vision of a playing field on the Benfield property. The task force then wraps up the presentation with a preliminary financial overview of the total project and neighborhood representative Ray Kubacki will review the many issues surrounding the development. Members hope that this will give everyone a good understanding of the work accomplished thus far and give them some interesting topics to bring into the breakout groups.

Indian artifacts?

Having established their Planning Day agenda at the unusually short Wednesday night meeting, the task force then focused on some lingering issues from past meetings. Ray Kubacki reported that abutter Tim Fohl is working on a map overlay that will identify the location of the rumored Indian stones on Parcel A. The religious significance of the stones is still not clear, but at least everyone will know their location. Member Phyllis Zinicola reported that a second access road to the housing complex will not be a requirement of the Planning Board. The town fire chief had requested a second method of egress at an earlier meeting, but siting and cost of the road make its feasibility questionable. "The small frontage of the property on South Street doesn't lend itself to a second road," explained Zinicola. "Besides, we're not creating a subdivision," added member Russ Dion. Ballantine suggested that if they did need a second egress, "It could just be a dirt road."

Questions and controversies

The Task Force meeting was not without its controversy from several neighborhood residents. Alan Carpenito of South Street feared that in the town's determination to cut costs, they might try to go around the prevailing wage and bring in low-cost workers from outside the community. This would deprive the very working people who would stand to benefit from affordable housing. "The owners get all the money and the workers get nothing," he lamented. "It's a moral thing." Carpenito also asked whether there were any laws that restrict the proximity of playing fields to housing, but Dion replied that he knew of no such regulations. Gordon Munson of Wildwood Drive wondered where all the parking spaces for the playing field will be located and expressed concern over the added traffic on South Street, especially when the proposed Cross Street development adds to the volume. Alan Lehotsky worried about how well the families in the affordable housing complex will "integrate into Carlisle."

All these questions and concerns should make for a lively Planning Day. Ballantine summed it up appropriately by saying, "This ought to be a lot of 'fun.' And yes, we have some budget available to provide food, coffee, and juice for the Saturday meetings."

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito