The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 29, 2005


133 acres of Benfield farm now permanently protected

On April 19, the Benfield family, working with Frank Stewart of Northland Residential and the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF), closed the largest, single private conservation transaction ever to occur in Carlisle. Approximately 1% of the entire land area of Carlisle has been permanently preserved as open space by this latest Benfield transaction. No taxpayer outlays were required. CCF is the non-profit land trust for Carlisle.

All 133 acres of the Benfield farm on West Street and Pope Road are now subject to perpetual conservation restrictions (CRs). Of the 133 acres, 61 are now owned outright by CCF, and will have public trail access. An additional 34 acres, on both sides of West Street and the northwest side of South Street, are in no-build areas protected by CRs, including a permanent, public trail easement to reach town land and CCF land above the old "ski hill." The remaining areas, also covered by CRs, are limited to building envelopes for the existing Benfield homestead and a maximum of eight single-family homes, four on each side of West Street.

The permanent protection of the Benfield farm creates an unusually large, contiguous, wildlife, open space and potential public trail corridor running from the 550-acre Spring Hill/Boy Scout conservation area in Acton, through over 110 acres of other town-owned and CCF-owned land between South Street and Concord Street, to the 1,700-acre Estabrook Woods in Carlisle and Concord. The newly protected area was singled out by the Sudbury Valley Trustees as a high priority for conservation because of its links to other protected open space.

The closing marked the culmination of over four years of intensive master planning efforts by the Benfield family and CCF, and over 18 months of local permitting efforts by Northland Residential, to plan a conservation-focused limited development of the Benfield farm off South Street, West Street and Pope Road in Carlisle. The Benfield farm has long been the largest private landholding in Carlisle, and has perennially topped the town's "critical to acquire or preserve" lists.

In addition to the permanent protection of the 133-acre Benfield farm that closed this month, in early 2004, as part of the master planning agreement between the Benfield family and CCF, the Town of Carlisle was offered the right to purchase a separate parcel of 45 acres of Benfield property on South Street (Parcel A). Voters approved the purchase, using CPA funds, by a 2/3 vote at a Special Town Meeting, designated for open space, 26 units of affordable housing and one playing field. In total, of the original 178 acres of Benfield Land holdings, over 68% have now been permanently preserved as open space, most of it publicly accessible.

Adalbert "Ben" Benfield, who lives on the property, was one of the founders of CCF. During his years of active service with CCF and the Carlisle Conservation Commission in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, he was personally responsible for the permanent conservation of well over a thousand acres in Carlisle, including Spencer Brook Reservation, Foss Farm, the Greenough Land and Towle Field, among others.

His grandson and family spokesman David Benfield commented, "It is with great satisfaction that the Benfield family has brought its conservation heritage full circle with the permanent protection of the Benfield farm. We hope this will serve as an example of good stewardship and land planning for other private land owners."

"The closing of the Benfield farm preservation effort is a red-letter day in the history of conservation in Carlisle," added Greg Peterson, an attorney with DLA Piper's Boston office, who, with Alex Parra, spearheaded the pro bono legal and planning efforts for CCF. "For seven years, CCF, with the encouragement and assistance of the town, has labored with multiple landowners to permanently protect land in the West Street corridor. Counting the 61 acres now owned by CCF at the Benfield farm, and the 34 additional acres of no-build zones there, so far over 235 acres have been permanently protected on both sides of West Street between Acton Street and South Street, and nearly a mile of rural vistas along West Street and Pope Road have been preserved. None of this would have been possible without the unbelievable generosity of the Benfield family, the dedication of the CCF Board, especially Art Milliken and Alex Parra, and the creativity of Frank Stewart and his team at Northland Residential."

Northland Residential Corporation, a developer with years of experience in similar rural and conservation-focused developments in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire, has been careful to involve the Benfield family, CCF and the town in planning the conservation- sensitive development within limited building envelopes which aims to preserve the rural streetscapes of the neighborhood, and maintain the integrity of the surrounding open-space. Stewart, the principal in charge of the project at Northland Residential, remarked, "Northland Residential has long been committed to the kind of thoughtful planning and open space protection found at Benfield farm. In addition to the perpetual conservation restrictions already put in place by the CCF-Benfield closing, Northland expects to use other planning tools as part of the limited development to further protect and enhance the privacy of our buyers, and maintain the sensitivity of the project toward the natural environment."

The eight homesites to be offered for sale by Northland Residential at Benfield farm range from four acres to over 12 acres in size.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito