The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 8, 2007


Neighbors air views on Benfield housing

The Carlisle Housing Authority is trying to decide whether the 26 units of affordable housing to be built on the Benfield property should be a senior-only development. Pros and cons were discussed at their May 31 meeting, at which neighbors to the town-owned land on South Street expressed frustration. When Chair Alan Lehotsky said, "We shouldn't write an RFP [Request for Proposals] for senior housing," Selectman and Benfield Land abutter Alan Carpenito disagreed strongly. Carpenito said, "I think you should ask abutters what type of housing they want [on the Benfield property.]" He added that if the development is only for seniors, it would have "less impact on schools."

Carlisle Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett suggested the compromise of a mixed development where only a portion of the units would be age-restricted.

Carpenito was concerned about how close the dwellings would be to the property line. South Street resident Juergen Lemmermann pointed out that any screening offered by trees would be less effective in winter.

Housing Authority member Eugenia Harris said she would consider a relatively tall building if recommended by the architects as a better fit for the housing site rather than a set of smaller buildings. South Street resident Ray Kubacki made a gesture, not visible to Harris, to express his displeasure with the tower idea.

Rent or sell?

Lehotsky spoke in favor of building rental housing because the state counts all units in a rental development as affordable, even if some are rented at higher market rates. Another advantage of rental developments, Lehotsky said, is that maintenance is controlled. However, he warned, "The state doesn't like all rentals to be for seniors Everyone is building senior housing, we don't want to have rentals when there's a glut [on the market.]"

Lehotsky asked Bert Williams, a Council on Aging board member, what he thought about making the Benfield property into a development for seniors. "I like the idea very much I'd like to see people stay in town," replied Williams.

Town Meeting approved the $2 million purchase of the Benfield Land in 2004, with the 45 acre property to be divided into areas for open space, a recreation field, and the creation of up to 26 units of affordable housing. Last year Town Meeting voted to move the housing closer to South Street to accommodate concerns over rare species habitat (blue spotted salamander) and possible Native American artifacts on the site.

Deed restrictions describe the division of the property into portions reserved for housing, recreation and open space. Barnett said the deed restrictions are currently being reviewed by various state agencies. Revisions are going back and forth, and the goal is to have this task completed by the end of June.

The Housing Authority is putting together architectural design guidelines, with the aim to have the Request for Proposal written by the end of summer.

Another housing idea

An idea was floated at the meeting about whether the elderly housing at Village Court on Church Street and the Gleason Public Library could be tied into the Carlisle School's waste water treatment plant, then acres of land now used as leach fields could be used for an expansion of affordable housing at Village Court and perhaps a senior center. The question remained whether the waste water treatment plant could handle that load in addition to a possible future school expansion.

Why is Carlisle getting into the housing business?

The state mandates that at least 10% of the housing in each town be affordable to families earning 80% of the median regional income. Until Carlisle meets that goal, it is vulnerable to 40B developments, which are allowed to exceed local zoning density requirements as long as 25% of the housing created is affordable. If the town issues permits for 12 units of affordable housing, it will be eligible for a one-year protection from 40Bs.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito