The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 14, 2006


CPC recommends $200,000 payment for housing

At the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) meeting April 6, Selectman Doug Stevenson presented a proposal for transferring $200,000 from Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds as a payment to the Coventry Woods developer, Mark O'Hagan, to make two units affordable in addition to the ten affordable and 31 market rate units he now plans to build. The abutters to the proposed development on Concord Street had negotiated a reduction in units from 56 to 41.

CPA funds are collected under a 2% real estate tax surcharge, and to date have been matched dollar for dollar by the state and are to be used for the purposes of historical preservation, community housing, open space and public recreation. The CPC reviews applications and makes recommendations to Town Meeting, which has final spending authority. See articles on pages 4 and 5 for Articles on additional CPA applications.

With only ten affordable units, Carlisle would not have fulfilled the state's requirement to add 12 units per year in order to extend the town's moratorium on 40B development. Because the developer could not afford the lost revenue of selling two additional units at below-market prices, an agreement was reached that the town supply the $200,000. A recapture program will return to the town a percentage of sales above a certain level on market rate units. An age restriction will also be removed although, Stevenson noted, the size and layout of the units, which are two-bedroom, are not conducive to families.

Stevenson said the plan is "acceptable by the neighbors" and the "memorandum of understanding was supported by all." The agreement ends a period of strong neighbor opposition to the development, opposition that would almost certainly have resulted in a lawsuit and delay at considerable cost to the developer. A suit against the Carlisle Zoning Board was also likely. "Our savings on legal fees is astronomical," said Stevenson.

Larry Sorli wondered how seemly it was "to be making deals with developers" and questioned if the town was being manipulated with a scare tactic. He also noted the environmentally-friendly town plan would be to encourage density to free up more open land. "Why are we afraid of cluster housing?" he asked. "We're more concerned with keeping our density low and keeping our snob zoning."

But Kent Gonzalez, a developer himself, was very enthusiastic. "It's a win-win. It's impressive you can buy two units (of affordable housing) for $200,000. I'm surprised the developer would agree to this." He noted that "Carlisle is held up as the poster child (for affordable housing obstructionism). This turns that around by showing the town can work with a developer. It's fantastic!" Caren Ponty agreed the plan provides an opportunity, "It's our first chance to put money toward something we know will get built."

Tim Hult suggested, "Even if we're against it, we should put it in front of Town Meeting and let the voters decide." The CPC voted to recommend the transfer of $200,000 from undesignated funds with funds recaptured to be returned to the Carlisle Housing Trust or CPC. Concluded Hult, "I don't think this is a given. This will be a hearty discussion at Town Meeting."

Housing Authority Trust

Housing Authority member Steve Pearlman requested $50,000 be transferred from CPA funds to the to-be-formed Housing Trust. He noted the Housing Authority needs an amount of money that can be accessed quickly "if an opportunity comes up" consistent with the Affordable Housing Plan. For example, if a piece of land were to go up for sale, some money might have to be expended before a plan could be presented to Town Meeting.

Chair Caren Ponty questioned whether the Housing Plan provides any basis for action. She pointed to a proposed Carlisle Village Court expansion, and noted the Town of Carlisle does not own the land. "Are they (the non-profit owners) even interested in working with us?" It was also noted that the Greenough Land, another proposed site, is virtually all within 200 feet of a river, making any development subject to the state Rivers Act.

Tim Hult defended the $50,000 request. With regard to the affordable housing proposed for the town-owned Benfield Land he said, "If the two things holding us up are settled, we want to move forward." He added, "Things come up we need to act more quickly on." He noted that regarding the moratorium on 40Bs, "If we're lucky we get three years between Coventry Woods and Benfield" before a new plan must be in place. "It seems like a lot of time, but it's not."

Pearlman noted the Housing Plan presents directions rather than action items. "The real idea is we don't want to be specific. We want to give ourselves and the town flexibility." Kent Gonzalez added, "It's soft money, but necessary soft money. I'm happy with $50,000." Ponty agreed, "Let's do the 50" and the committee voted to recommend a transfer of $50,000 from the Community Housing Reserve Fund to the Housing Trust (if in place) or Housing Authority.

Barton recommended a FY07 budget that assumes the minimum contribution to funds designated for open space, historic, and community housing. He noted keeping funds undesignated gives the greatest flexibility. Also, "the only place for active recreation is the undesignated fund. If you whittle it down, there're no funds for recreation."

Ponty agreed with transferring the minimum, "When something comes along we don't have to worry that it's in the wrong account." Once funds are designated, they must be spent for the specific purpose. The recommended budget transfers were approved.

Barton's fund balances assume 100% matching from the state, "We have guidance that 100% will be available to communities next year."

$20,000 proposed for Bruce Freeman Trail

On April 6, the Community Preservation Committee voted to propose allocating $20,000 from undesignated funds to develop the Carlisle portion of the Bruce Freeman Trail. This proposed bike trail will follow the old train tracks off Rt. 27 and will enter Carlisle for roughly a quarter-mile.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito