The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 1, 2005


Public invited to Community Planning Day for Benfield Land

Mark your calendars for the morning of Saturday April 9 from 9 a.m. to noon. The Benfield Task Force will be hosting a Community Planning Day to present the results of their work over the past year on affordable housing and active recreation on Benfield Parcel A on South Street, and to get feedback from the town's citizenry.

The Planning Day agenda calls for a three-hour meeting in the Clark Room of the Town Hall. The meeting will feature a presentation by John Winslow, of Winslow Design Associates, summarizing the results to date and explaining the tradeoffs between the two proposed development plans. Plan A (field in front, housing in back) and Plan B (both field and housing in back) differ in cost by only $135,000, but are widely separated in concept.

Most of the controversy is centered on the playing field, while the affordable housing remains relatively unchallenged in the background. Placing the playing field on South Street raises objections from abutters regarding traffic, parking, and noise. Moving the field next to the affordable housing site meets with opponents who reject the idea of a ballfield in the middle of the woods requiring needless tree clearing and grading.

Cost for construction of the 26 affordable units, based on 31,200 square feet of living space at $135 per square foot, is identical for the two plans. The site preparation for Plan B exceeds Plan A, as might be expected, with the clearing of a large wooded area and leveling of the property. The total cost of Plan A comes in at $6,625,082. Plan B is estimated at $6,760,350 and does not include any additional cost for blasting to remove ledge. The costs of a fire cistern and irrigation are not included for either plan.

Those attending the April 9 Community Planning Day will form breakout groups of 8-10 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 present their results and issues. All inputs will be then be reviewed by the Task Force and used to formulate the final proposal presented at Spring Town Meeting.

John Ballantine, chair of the Task Force, has an ambitious schedule for completion of the Benfield Parcel A plans in time for the May 23 Annual Town Meeting. He hopes to ask town residents to approve four actions on the town property:

1. Approve deed restrictions for development of Parcel A. This includes identification of areas for recreation, open space and housing — number of units, size of recreation field, parking, etc.

2. Authorize the issuance of a Request for Proposal (RFP) to solicit developers to build the housing, including recommendations that specify development design guidelines to use in the RFP.

3. Approve funds up to $50,000 for predevelopment to be used for engineering, environmental, legal, architectural, financing, and project management work. This includes funding for a professional archaeologist.

4. Approve recommendation to the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for allocation of $500,000 to be set aside for the Benfield property for use in development of the recreation field or the infrastructure (roads, septic system or wells) for the community housing.

All these issues and concerns should make for a challenging and stimulating Community Planning Day on April 9. Refreshments will be provided by the Benfield Task Force.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito