Friday, October 28, 2005
Benfield project crawls forward at the speed of a salamander
A dejected John Ballantine appeared before the Board of Selectmen at their October 25 meeting. Instead of submitting the two proposed Conservation Restrictions on the town-owned Benfield Land (ConsCom OKs Benfield CRs, October 21, 2005) for the Selectmen's approval, the drafts were put on hold due to the recent discovery of a Spotted Salamander on the property (Benfield Land shelters rare species, September 30, 2005). "Spotted Salamanders only like buildable land," lamented Ballantine. The town is also drawing up deed restrictions for the housing and recreation portions of the property.
The Town recently spent over $11,000 to hire the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) to determine the authenticity of claims that Benfield Parcel A contains sacred Indian relics. The Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) stated that before any proposed construction is begun, any historical or archaeological resource must undergo an intensive survey under a permit from the State Archaeologist. "We'll probably have to do another study now on the salamanders,"said Ballantine. This time it will be the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program that has to be convinced that no harm will come to the rare critters.
"Right now, we're in sort of a holding pattern," concluded Ballantine. Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie sees the big issue as the cost of the salamander study and where the money will come from. Selectman Tim Hult sadly reflected on the town's being continually blocked from doing the right thing and providing affordable housing to comply with the State's 40B requirements. To make matters worse, Ballantine said that any study would have to wait until next spring after the salamanders emerge from their winter refuge. Meanwhile, with no town-supported affordable housing in sight, the 40B developers have a free rein to build more housing projects like Coventry Woods.
Deed restriction for recreation
On a positive note, Recreation Commission (RecCom) member Allen Deary reported to the Selectmen that the Recreation Trust board, which was recently criticized for being overstaffed with RecCom members, will now consist of five members. Only two of the five board members will be from RecCom, thus they will not represent a majority.
Deed restriction for housing
According to chairman Alan Lehotsky, the Carlisle Housing Authority (CHA) announced at their October 18 meeting that Community Teamwork, Inc. (CTI) of Lowell, Massachusetts, has agreed to hold the deed restriction for that portion of the town-owned Benfield Land which will be used for an affordale housing development. The Commonwealth requires that a third party hold the restriction pertaining to housing and ensure that it is enforced throughout the project development. The Selectmen must approve of the choice before paperwork is filed with the state.
According to the organization's web site (www.comteam.org), CTI is a community action agency for greater Lowell and "is committed to mobilizing resources for low-income people to become self-sufficient, alleviating the effects of poverty, and assisting low-income people to participate in decisions that affect their lives."
Community Teamwork is a regional organization with property management experience. In addition, CTI is affiliated with Common Ground, a non-profit affordable housing developer.
© 2005 The