Friday, November 26, 2004
Board of Appeals begins review of Maple Street 40B -- Difficult parcel is landlocked in Carlisle with access through Billerica
Still clearly distressed over the short amount of time, three months, given by the state to handle the Massapoag 40B proposal to build eight units on landlocked acreage off Maple Street, the Carlisle Board of Appeals (BOA) was told by Associate Town Counsel Rick Hucksam on November 18 to, "Shoulder onYou shouldn't delay the hearing in any way based on what Billerica is doing."
Carlisle board members had gone to the first Billerica meeting which was supposed to deal with this application on the previous night, but because of a deficient notice to the abutters, the meeting did not take place. The Billerica Board of Appeals was next scheduled to meet on December 9. However, according to the applicant's attorneys, Harrington and Son, Billerica will simply remand the application to a subcommittee with little or no discussion.
Board chair Cindy Nock asked if the deadline could be extended. Hucksam said it could, by agreement with the developer, but Harrington told the board, "Whatever Billerica does, doesn't affect what Carlisle does and we see no reason to [extend the deadline]."
The complexity of the application requires both Billerica and Carlisle to approve the applicant's plan to develop the 4.37 acres of land which are located in Carlisle. Access to this land is available only through Billerica, by a paper road, which the applicants have claimed they have the rights to use.
Is there legal access?
The question of rights to access the land was reviewed by Hucksam, hoping that he was not "opening a can of worms." He said that when the applicant initially proposed the development, they claimed that they had "rights by estoppel." The title information that they provided was evaluated by the town attorney, and based on their information, the attorney told the board that it appeared they have a good claim. He clarified that he did not give a certificate of title, and that in examining case law, it is also clear that the board of appeals does not have an ability to determine title. He went on to say that the board doesn't have a right to challenge the private rights over land that the developer is contending he has, but it may be challenged by private individuals who think that their rights are being impinged.
Land value and profit
The question of whether there should be an independent appraisal of the property was discussed, and if so would the applicant pay for it. There is the concern that the economic basis for this development hinges on the value of the property that the developer submitted with his plan to the state housing authority. The value of the land was originally stated by applicant to be $700,000, and was later reduced to $550,000. However, without a permit, the landlocked property which is unbuildable under Carlisle's bylaws, is stated to be approximately only worth $15,000. Hucksam told the board that, "Under state law regulations, the value of property can't reflect the value of the permit." In this case, it seems that "the land value has been affected by value of permit." He recommended that an independent appraisal of the property would be useful.
Harrington told the board that these matters were reviewed by the Mass housing authority, and they told the board, "You are going beyond your purview." They explained that the pro forma budget was based on an estimate of cost, and the town is protected because once the project gets built, there is a limit of only 20% profit on expenses. If the profit is greater, the town gets the difference, which is to be put in a fund to develop more affordable housing.
When asked if they would pay for an independent appraisal, they told the board that they would take it under advisement. Hucksam told the board that getting an appraisal should not be a partisan issue. "If we want it, we pay for it ourselves [if the applicant won't pay]."
Hucksam objected to the assertion by the Harrington attorneys that this is not an issue that the board should be discussing. He said that it was indeed relevant, because of the profit issue. "If the numbers are wrong initially, you'll not get a proper read on the profit."
Fire Department requirements
The board has received lengthy comments from Carlisle Fire Chief David Flannery, who told the board that the name Carlisle Woods was not acceptable because of similar names in Carlisle, which could be confusing in an emergency situation. He said access for fire trucks should be on an 18-foot-wide paved road, with a circular turn that would have a 50-foot centerline radius for turning. The water source, a 30,000 gallon cistern (minimum) needs to be within 100 feet of the Maple Street entrance. Finally, there needs to be a fire alarm which would connect to the fire department.
This issue of fire safety seems to be a major concern, as the access road to this property is through Billerica. The applicant's attorneys reported that they had spoken already with the Billerica Fire Department, and they were told that Billerica maintains a mutual aide agreement with Carlisle, and that their station is a mere mile away from the proposed development. He told the board that there is a fire hydrant on Estee Road, a dead end road. The Billerica Selectmen wouldn't provide permanent access to Estee Road, but would allow a paved road, with a crash gate at the end, so that if emergency vehicles needed to get to the property quickly from Billerica, they could.
The fact that Carlisle trucks are not equipped to deal with hydrants because we have none, and whether or not Billerica trucks are equipped to deal with cisterns, are unanswered questions. The board was going to refer this issue and other emergency vehicle questions back to the fire chief for further clarification.
Some puzzling questions were raised by abutters, for example, how could the cistern be located 100 feet from Maple Street, when the easement is only 40 feet wide, and that point would be only one-fifth the distance to the development. "Would the cistern be in the middle of the road?" asked abutter Ed Rolfe.
The board asked the Harrington attorneys if the property could be walked. They mutually agreed on a time, Sunday, December 5, at 2 p.m. However, abutters were not invited by the Harringtons. This is a walk only for board officials.The hearing was continued until December 9.
© 2004 The