Friday, February 17, 2006
Is single-access Coventry Woods safe in a fire?
Townspeople filled the Clark Room at Town Hall to hear the continued discussion about the Coventry Woods 40B application. Jerry Preble and Holly Johnson from Beals and Thomas, the Zoning Board of Appeals' (ZBA) peer engineering consulting team, who have been reviewing the current 40B application, announced that before they can continue their analysis of the project and make recommendations to the board, the single access road into the development must be reconsidered based on input from the Carlisle Fire Chief. Preble urged the applicant, Mark O'Hagan of MCO & Associates, and the ZBA to "talk to the fire chief and get a sense of what is acceptable. This needs to be resolved first."
The single access road to the 56-unit development, Pasquale Way, is located off Concord Street. There are currently no other plans for an alternate or additional access road. Preble emphasized his concern regarding the safety of the occupants if and when emergencies arise: "You don't have to be an engineer or a planner to see how long it would take in case of an emergency to reach these units." Until the fire chief provides his feedback, Preble said that "it doesn't make sense for us to review [water, sewage or] other issues if this project is ultimately different."
O'Hagan agreed to discuss the access road design with the Fire Chief and consider the input for alternative access points.
The Coventry Woods development proposes an unusual option for affordable housing in Carlisle. MCO & Associates, Inc., propose to develop the 22.6 acre parcel off of Concord Street into a 56-unit, age-restricted town-house community. Fourteen (25%) of the 56 units are deemed "affordable" under 40B laws. Each of the affordable units would have approximately 1800 sq. ft. of living space: two bedrooms with a master suite on the first floor, 2.5 baths, and a one- car garage. The price tag on these affordable homes is targeted at $163,000 and the units would be interspersed throughout the development.
A few attendees addressed the audience saying that they had only recently learned about the Coventry Woods proposed development. Steve Herbst of School Street, though not an abutter, is concerned about how the development will change the face of the town.
While water, sewage and safety still remain critical concerns in the proposed development for the town and abutters, the larger issue of how the town is seemingly willing to accept this type of dense 40B development in order to gain a year-long moratorium on 40B proposals surfaced during discussions. Michael Epstein, an abutter on Spencer Brook Lane, said, "There seems to be this sense that we need to [grant this permit] so we can get a moratorium for 12 or 13 units. Affordable housing has to be spread around. It's not fair to dump this 'nuclear bomb' in our backyard so the town will get a moratorium."
Cindy Nock, chairperson of the ZBA, responded by saying "we need to understand that we are susceptible to this kind of development unless the town steps up to the plate. We need to acquire more than 13 units per year." Nock and other board members agreed that affordable housing units should indeed be spread around the town. She further commented that the board is "obviously concerned about safety issues."
The Coventry Woods hearing will continue on March 13 at 8 p.m.
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