Friday, March 10, 2006
CPC seeks joint ConsCom, RecCom request Representatives agree to Foss Farm study
Is it feasible to put two ball fields on the Foss Farm conservation land off Bedford Road? Are there, or are there not, significant legal or environmental impediments? If there are none, is it in the town's best interest to construct the facilities?
Following a meeting of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) on March 1, it appears that Carlisle citizens may be given an opportunity to resolve these questions within a reasonable time frame. The CPC, which is the body that evaluates requests for funding under the Community Preservation Act's 2% real estate surcharge, was continuing consideration of a request from the Recreation Commission (RecCom) for $80,000 to finance a design plan for construction of two multi-purpose ball fields on the Foss Farm conservation land. The Conservation Commission (ConsCom), which is the body legally responsible for management of the parcel, had, at its February 23 meeting, announced its opposition to the manner in which the issue has been raised.
ConsCom chairman Tom Schultz attended the CPC meeting and distributed copies of a letter from the commission stating the board's contention that the RecCom, "as one of the users, and a party with no jurisdiction over Foss Farm, is not the appropriate party to prepare a management plan for the parcel" and that "granting funds to them for a study of Foss Farm is not a wise use of the funds under your stewardship."
When CPC chairman Caren Ponty recognized Norm Lind, alternate for the regular RecCom representative Allen Deary, Lind announced that RecCom was downsizing its original request for $80,000. They were substituting a proposal for a "user study" only, at that time. He added that this would reduce the funding required considerably.
Selectman Tim Hult, who represents the Board of Selectmen (BOS) on the CPC, said he believed the matter of ball fields on Foss Farm should involve a two-step process, starting with the approach agreed to at an August 12 BOS meeting. There it was decided that representatives of the ConsCom and RecCom would confer with major users of the property and explore the feasibility of locating ball fields on Foss Farm. Therefore, he felt the RecCom request should be considered in that light. First, he said it was necessary to answer the outstanding legal, environmental and management questions. Once comfortable with those facts, the town could proceed to the second step, provision of funds for designs. He added that he would be okay with an integrated user plan that could be brought to a future Town Meeting.
Expressing support for a "master plan" for Foss Farm, Schultz explained that ConsCom's recently-formed Land Stewardship Committee (LSC), a volunteer subcommittee charged with the development of management plans for all town parcels under the commission's jurisdiction, had already put Foss Farm at the top of its priority list. As indicated in the ConsCom letter, their established process would include: a) seeking input from users, abutters and other interested citizens; b) utilizing ConsCom files for each property, including deed and other legal restrictions, license agreements and habitat and species information and c) conducting public hearings. Therefore, ConsCom favored letting the stewardship group head the exploratory process.
Lind observed that RecCom use of the Foss Farm property had been talked about "in fits and starts," ever since the purchase of the property in 1971. "There has been a lot of foot-dragging over the years, which has left Carlisle far behind surrounding towns like Concord when it comes to athletic fields," he said. Both at the meeting and later in a brief telephone interview, Lind stressed that RecCom believes there are good locations for ball fields on Foss Farm that need not interfere with other users and, "We want to bring a resolution to the doubts that have been heard since 1971."
Hult declared that he had no problem with the idea of the Stewardship Committee representing ConsCom on the development of a user plan as long as RecCom is included in the deliberations. He then added, "Above all I want to know if this [the proposal for ball fields] is possible, and I want the questions about legal feasibility answered."
Obviously not satisfied with a primary stress on "feasibility," Lind commented, "I want to start with a positive goal of ball fields at Foss Farm." He said he had heard residents of South Street "practically foaming at the mouth" at the discussions concerning a ball field on the Benfield Land while Foss Farm was left out of the debate.
Schultz interjected that ConsCom was "very willing" to have a joint committee. "That's what we're proposing, but we don't want it set up as a mandate to come up with a plan for ball fieldsWe want to do the right thing for the town, and we want to do it together," he concluded.
Looking for a "compromise" solution, Hult suggested that ConsCom and RecCom representatives get together to recommend formation of a study committee, perhaps, comprising two members of the Stewardship Committee, two from RecCom and some from the user groups, to devise a user/management plan for Foss. Representatives of the two commissions should be ready to recommend the composition and charter of the study group with, perhaps a more modest request for funding, that CPC could support at this spring's Town Meeting. If the joint proposal is accepted by CPC at its April 5 session, it will appear as one of several such CPC recommendations at Town Meeting on May 1. The conclusions of the study group could then be presented at a future Town Meeting, perhaps in the fall.
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