The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 5, 2004


Task Force reviews Benfield Parcel A issues with consultants

On October 29 the Benfield Task Force met with two of its newly-hired consultants. John Winslow of Winslow Architects, the company recently chosen to develop a plan for the site, will develop several proposals for siting twenty-six units of affordable housing and a ball field, in preparation for a public meeting to be held in January, 2005. Toby Kramer of Riverside Consulting, also in attendance, will help the town navigate the regulations regarding 40B developments and propose the most cost-effective mix of units.

(Map adapted by Hal Shneider)

Town input

Chair John Ballantine began by discussing the results of two planning days held in September and October at which townspeople provided input. He outlined the need for recreation fields, while noting, "This is a controversial issue which will continue to be debated in other meetings." He pointed to two options for placing the ball field, with "the bulk of the feedback to have the field up front," though the view from the road and discouraging roadside parking would be issues. He added, "The neighborhood would prefer the field not be up front." Neighborhood representative and Benfield parcel A abutter Alan Carpenito countered, "We'd rather not have a ball field at all."

Winslow responded, "[If] you want a soccer field on a slope [away from South Street] we're going to be leveling a lot of land to flatten that hillside. Without a doubt, the field in back is more expensive."

Task Force member Phyllis Zinicola pointed to "a lot of interest in a common building incorporated into the site." The community building would probably only be acceptable as a replacement for the ball field, said Ballantine, noting, "We'll field some opposition if we try to do both."

Another issue is keeping the housing from detracting from the natural view from the conservation area. Winslow noted that the proposed location of the housing complex is "a great housing site" and occupants "would like to be able to look at this beautiful field." Carpenito observed that the land was bought for the purpose of housing and nature lovers "should go to Towle Field if they want to see Towle Field."

Cost considerations

Cost is a consideration, Ballantine noted. "Two recent town projects have come in way over [expectations]." He said the task force agrees with the Finance Committee that "the additional subsidy [for development] will be under $1 million... That's not an unreasonable expectation when you've spent $2 million for the land."

Winslow recommended employing a cost estimator. Russ Dion of the task force questioned whether a civil engineer is needed to cost out a preliminary plan. It was decided to take the plan a step further, "If we end up eliminating one site for the ball field [due to site considerations], there's no point having an engineer evaluate it."

A significant cost issue is the length of the road. Fire Chief Dave Flannery has suggested the road should provide more than one way out of the development. This requirement could lengthen the road from six to seven thousand feet to twenty thousand. Flannery and Carlisle Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard will be invited to the next meeting to attempt to resolve this issue. In addition, a traffic analyst will be gathering some information and presenting a report soon.

Winslow praised the quality of the information he was receiving from the committee, "It's an impressive amount of work you've done." He said he expects to develop ten quick plans for preliminary consideration.

Controversial letter

At the end of the meeting, Carpenito read a letter to the editor (Carlisle Mosquito, 10/22/04) from Recreation Commission Chair Maureen Tarca. In her letter Tarca complained about reporter bias, "The Mosquito article about the second Benfield Planning day was negative about a ballfield on the benfield property....All but one of the attendees quoted live on or near South Street." Carpenito accused her of "misleading statements." Noting a large percentage of the land for development is either conservation or wetlands. "There are not 45 acres of land" to work with as stated in the letter, Carpenito said. He also said Tarca's characterization of the possible disturbance from a ball field as "the sound of children playing" was unfair, as the concern is "the sound of referees and whistles."

Ballantine responded, "I can see why the letter upset you," but he disagreed with Tarca's accusation that the Mosquito report on the second community planning day was skewed. "The Mosquito reported the meeting fairly." RecCom task force representative Allen Deary asked, "Haven't we [the task force] been fair in listening to neighborhood concerns?" Assured Ballantine, "We will come up with the best plan we can that takes all the issues into account."

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito