Friday, August 3, 2007
What kind of affordable housing does Carlisle need most?
Carlisle's decades-long discussion about municipal construction of affordable housing may have wearied many to the point that eyes glaze and heads nod at the sight of yet another article on the topic, but now is a good time to pay close attention and voice any suggestions or concerns. Housing Authority discussions are becoming more focused, as they prepare to make decisions about who, and how many, the town's Benfield development will serve.
A two-thirds majority of Town Meeting voted in 2004 to buy the 45-acre parcel on South Street for the combined purposes of conservation, recreation and community housing. Voters authorized construction of up to 26 affordable housing units. Each 13 units of affordable housing qualifies the town for a year's veto over high-density 40B developments. The town also voted to allow an athletic field to be built near the housing, while the remainder of the land is to be kept permanently protected as open space.
During Housing Authority meetings some neighbors have expressed a preference for senior housing. In June, the Carlisle Affordable Housing Trust recommended the Benfield development be targeted for seniors with a unit count in the "mid-teens". The Housing Authority recently completed an informal prioritization of evaluation criteria, where more than one goal may share a rank value (see table below, listed in order of preference).
Integration with neighborhood 1
Chapter 40B quota 2
Independent of town financial support 3
Architectural design 4
Income mix 5
Senior housing 6
Ground lease 6
More than 20 units 6
Supportive services (e.g. healthcare) 6
Family housing 7
Disabled unit(s) 8
Mix of 1 & 2 bedrooms 8
Time frame of construction 9
Low-income tax credit financing 10
Mix of 1, 2 & 3 bedrooms 10
What type of development would benefit Carlisle most? Would families with children, or senior citizens be best? Other questions include: Will any town residents or employees meet income or asset eligibility qualifications? What are the reasons to build fewer than 26 units? Does Carlisle need housing with support services (e.g., nursing or homemaking) for the disabled or elderly? What about energy-efficient design? Does the size of the buildings or the number of buildings matter? Would add-ons such as a community room, playground, or fitness trail benefit the town?
In the next couple of months, the Housing Authority will choose project specifications and begin the search for a developer. Anyone who wishes to voice an opinion should speak up now.
Summer news from Carlisle
It's been a quiet summer for us in Carlisle.
Old Home Day continued its expanded format, with races, the parade, cakewalk, and the Sunday evening ice cream social. The library book sale was our center of activity. We unloaded, set up, and repacked thousands of pounds of books between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., missing most of the day's events. We spent the next week recovering. Leftover chickens from the Fire Department barbeque provided sandwiches for many days.
Controversies at the school appear to have gone on vacation with the students and faculty.
The news in beekeeping centers on Colony Collapse Disorder, in which, one day, mysteriously, a hive is completely empty. Cell phone towers? Genetically modified crops? Aliens? One of our gurus at the Middlesex County Beekeepers Association thinks widespread use of chemical pesticides lies at the heart of the disorder: affected worker bees find their way back to the hive once or twice, but then become lost and perish. So far our four hives house streams of bees filling the honey supers with increasingly heavy, golden honey. In the evening the pungent odor of summer honey floats through the grape arbor.
Weather these past two months has been nearly perfect: weekly bouts of soft rain, brilliant sun, and a few hot days to ripen the tomatoes. Temperate weather has encouraged more gardeners; their enthusiasm shows in the nearly constant activity.
Newcomers still order large cones at Bates Farm.
The other day I walked around the Cranberry Bog on Curve Street with a young acquaintance with a passion for reptiles. We poked our heads through reeds and cattails, looking for snakes and amphibians. We spotted one of the biggest bullfrogs he had ever seen (I could tell he hadn't visited the Asian markets in San Francisco). He hopes one day to attend the University of Kansas, home of one of the leading programs in reptile science. He admitted that not too many young ladies share his passion for scaly creatures.
On July 15, Larry Bearfield, owner of Ferns Country Store, hosted a political forum, standing on a soapbox on the porch of his store. Five Democrats and a lone Republican, vying for our recently vacated Congressional seat, addressed a crowd of about 50 citizens on issues of the day: health care, senior issues, foreign policy, and the global climate. It has been 232 years since a national event has threatened to spill over into Carlisle. This summer bodes well to continue that streak.
We also survived the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. On July 21, 8.3 million copies sold in the U.S. and 2.65 million in Britain. Worldwide, 325 million copies in the series have sold since 1997, with records set in Pakistan and other countries. J.K. Rowling is richer than the queen. The Gleason Library distributed copies of the seventh and last volume at one second after midnight.
Recently, starlings have been gathering at our feeder. Although they are much too early to be flocking in a serious way, they are harbingers of the October hordes that alight with a feathery roar for a day or two. Small, hard acorns have begun to appear in the shady grass. Somewhere, slow wheels are revolving, carrying all of us onward toward our little destinies.
© 2007 The