Friday, October 21, 2005
ConsCom OKs Benfield CRs
At the recommendation of the Conservation Restriction Advisory Committee (CRAC) the Conservation Commission has declared updated drafts of two proposed Conservation Restrictions (CRs) on the town-owned Benfield Land to be "in the public interest," and to recommend that the Board of Selectmen (BOS) approve them. The first CR, which names the private Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) as grantee, was accepted unanimously. The second CR, which designates the Recreation Trust as grantee, passed by a split vote and with vociferous opposition.
A CR is a legal document bestowed by a landowner, either in perpetuity or for a specified number of years, to protect land and/or water resources and limit construction or other activities within that area. The grantee is the party charged with monitoring observance of the CR's conditions. Besides ConsCom approval, CRs must be accepted by the Selectmen and ratified by the state.
CRAC member Wayne Davis acting as spokesman for that organization at ConsCom's October 13 meeting reminded the Commission that the town had made it clear at the Annual Town Meeting that it wanted a recreation component, specifically a ball field, sited, if possible, on the interior field at Benfield. If that should prove impossible, the fallback location would be an open field just off South Street. Since funding for the Benfield purchase came in part from Community Preservation Act (CPA) monies that require both conservation and recreation components, Davis felt it made sense for the Recreation Trust to serve as grantee for the recreation CR and CCF for the conservation CR.
The Recreation Trust
The first question was, "Where did the Recreation Trust come from?" Davis answered that it had been formed back in the early 1980s to support recreation activities in town, and that the conservation interest had been added recently. The three trustees have been Carlisle Recreation Commission (RecCom) members Allen Deary, John LaLiberte and Norm Lind. CRAC had voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of Selectmen approve the Recreation CR only after the Recreation Trust presented a plan for a reconstituted board that would be independent of RecCom.
Commissioner Roy Watson was the first to register opposition. "I don't have confidence that an organization so clearly allied with the Recreation Commission will enforce conservation laws," he declared. More specifically, he cited the almost inevitable use of chemical compounds to assure a regulation ball field surface. He also observed that if Native American relics or spotted salamanders should preclude use of the inner field and force a move to the South Street open space, the active playing area would not just be in the buffer zone of a wetland, but would come to the very edge of the wetland itself.
Expressing amazement that the Town was now creating a third class of land, Recreation Land, to join Town Land and Conservation Land, Commissioner Tricia Smith said, "I want to know more about the Recreation Trust." Chair Tom Schultz agreed and asked, "How do they propose to be responsible for protection of the [conservation restriction] conditions stated in the CR in future years.? To which Smith added that, "Conservation Restriction is not an accurate label to put on it [the recreation parcel]. This will be a highly constructed regulation ball field, with all that implies."
Commissioner John Lee, who is ConsCom's representative on the Community Preservation (CPA) Committee, said he believed that group preferred a reconstituted Recreation Trust to CCF as grantee. Davis in turn said nobody had asked CCF to accept it and they had not volunteered.
After Davis commented that he saw this as an opportunity to start building bridges between ConsCom and RecCom, Schultz said he found that a "pragmatic approach," but that a vote to that effect was "putting a square peg in a round hole." Then he asked for a motion on the first [ unopposed] CR that named CCF as grantee of the conservation CR, which passed unanimously. A second motion to recommend approval of the recreation CR passed five to two, with Peter Burn, Lee, Schultz, Kelly Stringham and Diane Troppoli voting, "yea," and Smith and Watson voting "Nay."
The second successful motion read as follows: "The Conservation Commission finds the proposed CR to be in the public interest and recommends to the Board of Selectmen that they approve the CR, with the understanding that the Recreation Trust will present a plan to them for a reconstituted board that is independent of the Recreation Commission."
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie says the Selectmen will consider the CRs at their October 25 meeting.
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