The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 8, 2004


ConsCom to Selectmen: "The Greenough cottage is yours"

The cottage on the town-owned Greenough Land is in serious disrepair. (Photo by Rik Pierce)

In a letter dated September 28, Conservation Commission Chair Roy Watson gave official notice of that body's decision to return responsibility for management of the Greenough Land cottage and barn to the Board of Selectmen. Citing an eight-year history of study and frustration as changing commission personnel tried to find a productive, legally viable approach to "an extremely complex" problem, Watson expressed "deep disappointment" that the commission "could see no further options that would be within the scope of our ability to pursue."

Although not mentioned specifically in the letter, several subcommittees have sought to juggle the maze of restrictions that arise from state and local requirements for any change of use of conservation land assets. To that add the absence of legal vehicular access from the Town of Carlisle for any but official town traffic, the presence of friable asbestos and lead paint, steady structural deterioration resulting from insufficient maintenance budgets and the threat of vandalism or legal problems if cottage and barn are left vacant, to list only the most complicating factors.

A previous attempt to attract an in-kind tenant to effect repairs in return for a short-term lease failed, owing in part to the requirement for a substantial up-front investment by the tenant for a relatively brief contract. Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard has reported substantial interest in a more long-term commitment, but this would have to await legislative action at both the local and state level.

The official Conservation Commission communication reminded the Selectmen that, in anticipation of the Spring Town Meeting, the commission had presented the only two options they believed were left open. The first called for commitment of "a modest sum of money" to make minimal health and safety repairs and supply materials, which would allow the Minuteman Vocational and Technical School to use free labor to bring the building up to code. This accomplished, the property would become an attractive candidate for longer-term lease or other municipal use, such as affordable housing. A second option would have provided the board with the commission's best estimate as to the cost of demolition. To quote Watson, "The Board did not accept this proposal and asked us to come back with something better. Unfortunately, those two choices represented the best that we could offer."

The letter closed with the recommendation that the board set up a meeting in which the commission could give them access not only to the extensive body of information amassed by the commission and its subcommittees, but also a verbal explanation of the complex issues involved. Finally, it referred to certain "critical" matters that should be addressed "as quickly as possible." Presumably, this concerns security and insurance coverage.

During a September 23 discussion of Watson's draft letter, two significant themes emerged in addition to their recorded "disappointment" at the board's rejection of their pre-Town Meeting proposals. The first was expressed by Commissioner Tom Schultz when he said of their bugaboo, "We all have been stymied, and maybe it's time for someone else to take a look at it." The second came from the longest-serving member John Lee, who elicited vigorous nods from his colleagues when he commented, "We are not a real estate commission; we are a conservation commission, [and that's where our energies should go]."

A phone call to Selectmen Chair Tim Hult confirmed that the matter will be taken up at the board's October 12 meeting.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito