The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 1, 2008

Valentine family to preserve 131 acres and rural vistas

The owners of Carlisle’s largest remaining private farmland are seeking to permanently protect the majority of their land, while allowing for future limited development of up to 16 new houses. On July 28, John Jr. and Elizabeth Valentine of 566 Acton Street presented three Approval Not Required (ANR) land division plans for Still Meadow Farm to the Planning Board to review.

Plans for future limited development of the Valentine farm include 17 lots (for the existing home and 16 new houses.) Land to be protected by Conservation Restriction is gray (existing restriction is hatched), while building envelopes where houses may be located are in white. Dashed lines crossing into Acton show a trail easement. (Drawn by Marjorie Johnson)


Their property includes 156 acres at the corner of West and Acton Streets, 14 acres of which are in Acton. Together the Valentines run a cattle farm on their land, which is also home to rare species such as the Climbing Fern. For years the Valentine property has been number one on the Carlisle five-year action plan’s property protection priority list, confirmed Carlisle Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard. The priority list is part of the town’s Open Space and Recreation Plan.

The Valentines are long-time residents who have contributed much to preserve the historical and natural beauty of the town. When asked about Carlisle, Betty Valentine answered, “We have lived in Carlisle since 1955 and we raised our seven children here. We have always loved the town and hope it will continue as it is for as long as it possibly can.” In 1956 Jack Valentine worked with Harry Wilkins and Goldsmith Conant to create Carlisle’s current two-acre zoning. Since then Jack has been an active member on the board of Mass Audubon. Betty is an avid birder and has taught classes at Mass Audubon.

The Valentines would like to see the land farmed long into the future, and toward that end are preserving their fields for agricultural use. Consideration of their descendants’ needs and estate taxes prevent the Valentines from protecting the entire 156 acres. The plan that took the Valentine family 21 months to perfect will put a conservation restriction (CR) on 131 of their acres. The CR will be held by the Carlisle Conservation Foundation. In this way, future development will be limited to 25 acres in specified “building envelopes.” With the help of engineers Beals and Thomas Inc. and attorney Robert Tuchmann, the Valentines broke the property into pieces mindful to preserve the 18th- and 19th-century feel, 1750 farmhouse, fields, stone walls and beautiful open vistas.

Betty Valentine explained, “We hope it will continue looking very much the same as it does now, and that the people who buy the houses will put horses, cows or other livestock on the land. To keep the rural feeling of Carlisle continuing was basically our aim.”

Each of the 17 house lots (including the lot for the existing home) has frontage on Acton or West Street, and the Valentines hope they will only be developed as need arises. The lots have been carved out of the woods to be invisible from the road. Each field has a roughly 150-foot buffer preserved around it separating it from any future construction. Driveways will follow the contours of the land to be less visible and loop around fields to protect their agricultural function.

“This is an example of landowners who have an objective to keep the town environment as it is,” said Planning Administrator George Mansfield. “The Planning Board is very pleased.”

The Valentines have also thought to preserve existing trails, including a section of the regional Bay Circuit trail in the Acton portion of their woods, by granting trail easements and reserving right of ways. Marc Lamere, member of both the Planning Board and Trails Committee, said, “I was very glad to see that some number of trails were accounted for ahead of time in the original plan.”

Unanimously, the Planning Board endorsed each of the three Still Meadow Farm sections North, South and East as designed by Beals and Thomas. The board noted that a subdivision approval is not necessary to form the lots in this case, because each lot has adequate road frontage.

Board members and Selectmen present at the meeting expressed gratitude to the Valentines for their generous continuing gift to the town. “This is the single largest private landholding left in Carlisle, and 84% is going to be permanently preserved from the generosity of these two people who have given so much to the town throughout their lifetimes,” said Planning Board Chair Greg Peterson. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito