Friday, October 27, 2006
Time to vote on Benfield housing
Are there any homes in your neighborhood on four-acre lots? How would you feel if one such house near you were torn down and replaced by eight condos? High-density 40B developments are a real threat to our town. It has already happened once in Carlisle. The eight-unit Rocky Point Road/Laurel Hollow development replaced a single house on Lowell Street. Another high-density development, Coventry Woods, is planned for a larger parcel on Concord Street. If our town wants to manage growth, we need to earn a moratorium from Chapter 40B, the state's statute that allows developers to bypass local two-acre zoning regulations. Long-term protection from 40B will only be reached once 10% of Carlisle's housing stock meets state affordability criteria. We now have 20 affordable units and must add about 170 more.
Building affordable housing may not have been one of your top priorities when you moved to Carlisle, but maybe it should be now. On Monday, October 30, Town Meeting will vote whether to construct 26 units of affordable housing in the front field of the Benfield Land, which would buy a two-year moratorium from 40B. The original Benfield plan called for the housing to be located further inside the 45-acre property, but state-mandated protection of habitat for the rare blue-spotted salamander now makes that very difficult.
Some say that by constructing the housing complex close to the road we create the same problems posed by a 40B development. The rural vista on that stretch of road will definitely be changed, but 26 units on 45 acres is not high-density housing. The impact on the land, water, and our school system will be only a fraction of that felt all across the town if we let 40B developments continue.
Can we just wait and let the private developers build the affordable housing, since a quarter of all units in each 40B must be affordable? This is not a great idea, because in order to reach the 10% target, developers would build over 730 more houses (Note, as they build hundreds of new homes the 10% target keeps growing. A total of 680 40B units would include 170 affordable units, but it would also include 510 market-rate homes for which Carlisle would need to build 51 more affordable units).
A lot more than one scenic vista will be lost if Carlisle does not quickly earn a moratorium from 40B. That was one reason the Benfield Land was purchased. The Benfield Task Force, the Board of Selectmen and the Community Preservation Committee all recommend the town accept placing the Benfield housing in the field near the road. Individuals have disagreed. Come to Town Meeting, hear all sides, and help decide what will be best for Carlisle's future.
You know you are an empty nester
• When at the end of Move-In day, after hours of shuttling boxes and suitcases from your car to their dorm room and thinking about the seven-hour drive back home, they say "Love you! Drive carefully and call me as soon as you get home"
• When you end up eating leftovers from yesterday's leftovers because you cooked a little too much again.
• When you drink from a coffee mug that says "My Kid and My Money Go To X University."
• When you stress out over where to place those shiny university decals on your car's rear windshield: two per car, or one per each car, or maybe not to commit at this point, until they've got their own car to go with the diploma.
• When you find yourself reconsidering getting that dog or cat you never got when the kids were younger because you were already taking care of their goldfish/neon tetras/fancy guppies/Siamese war fish as well as the zebra finches and the red ear slider turtles.
• When you find yourself in lengthy online chat sessions with your own children in which they tell you about their day and are interested to know how yours was.
• Come to think of it, when you now find yourself in any kind of discourse with them that goes beyond "Yes," "No," and "Not now!"
• When, on a weekday, after a long day at the office, you find yourself driving to a late-night jazz concert in the city.
• When, with re-found commitment and excitement, you sign up for a series of professional workshops without worrying about scarce downtown parking, carpooling commitments or late hours.
• When making plans about who's driving what car does not involve the newly licensed members of the family, but just you and your spouse trying to make some efficient arrangements for an after-work dinner.
• When takeout pizza, or mac and cheese, is no longer first on your "what's for dinner?" list.
• When you downsize from the two gallon milk jugs to the small cartons, and realize that some cereal boxes remain, still half full, since the end of summer.
• When you no longer receive mail addressed to "The Parents of student" with their report cards, sometimes being made aware of their grades for the first time. (Nowadays, your son or daughter might call up while you are in the middle of a board meeting because they just couldn't wait to share with you how wonderfully well they did on their essay or mid-term exam.)
• When tuition bills arrive in the mail, addressed to the young Mr. or Ms. of the household — which you, the elder Mr. or Ms., are still paying.
• When you experience a brief moment of nostalgia upon seeing the second car parked in the garage, and think "oh, they're home early from music practice/karate/ballet."
• When everything you do evokes old memories of everything you used to enjoy doing, almost 20 years ago...in your pre-kids life.
• And, when everything they do takes you back down memory lane to the age of 18 or 19.
• When you hope that your fledglings will find their way far and beyond the nest, but know that they'll come back every spring like all birds do.
© 2006 The