The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 29, 2008


Halloween in August

Two weeks ago, in mid-August, I was startled to see aisles of very orangey Halloween products at the Rite-Aid store in Concord. Far less obtrusive, and more gradual, than this eye-popping display were the back-to-school specials that began everywhere around July 4. Rushing the season a bit?

In New England, the seasonal shift from summer to fall is disturbingly abrupt. We tend to slip into winter, slide into spring and summer, but we tumble into fall three weeks before the autumnal equinox. When Labor Day arrives, before the beach sand can be swept out of the car, we or our family members face the challenge of back to school, back to college, back to work, after the freedom of summer.

Who doesn’t wish for an endless summer? This season’s relentless rain and house-shaking thunderstorms that frightened dogs and alarmed their owners provided the number-one topic of conversation at the Farmers Market, the post office and the Transfer Station. When I complimented a Foss Farmer on his abundant tomatoes this week, he grumbled, “They would have been a lot better without all that rain.” A neighbor breathed “Finally!” in relief, while reveling in our recent, unfamiliar sunshine.

Transitions. Isn’t seasonal change one of the reasons we choose to live in New England? “Oh, we love the changing of the seasons,” we assured friends who recently moved to Southern California, while we tamped down a flicker of envy over their ice-free Decembers. A college friend from New York City wants to come to Carlisle over the Columbus Day weekend to view the fall colors in the region. I tell her that there is no guarantee that we will achieve “peak” by then, but we will drive north until we find it.

The pace of life quickens when the calendar flips to September. Already many-hued chrysanthemums have replaced geraniums as the flowers of choice adorning Carlisle doorways and driveways. Leaves have begun to turn and mornings are crisp and cool. We are on the cusp of Keats’s “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” as we bid farewell to indolent summer days.

On the national level, this will be an exciting fall as the presidential campaign shifts into high gear. On the local level, new town initiatives such as the completion of our already successful pathways, plans for the Spalding building project, the Gleason Library’s facelift and an extreme makeover for Ferns are on the calendar. Then there are the traditional autumnal celebrations that bring our town together – the fall harvest at Foss Farm, the sixth-grade Spaghetti Supper, the Harvest Fair at FRS and fall sports. A mixture of old and new lies ahead as Carlisle turns the page.

But please, Rite-Aid, don’t bring out your Christmas merchandise next week. We’re not that ready.

Opposite ends of the street

        At the Route 225 end of Acton Street, just up Westford Street toward the center of town, the new Hanover Hill development has begun, a 35-lot subdivision with two access roads: one opposite the entrance of Cross Street, the other just over the crest of the hill on 225, going toward the center of town. The logging skidders, bulldozers and trucks begin their day at 7 a.m. Even though my house sits about a quarter of mile from the development, I can hear the grinding of heavy equipment, the beeping of vehicles backing, and the impacts of road construction all day beneath the passage of occasional vehicles down Acton Street and the background vehicle hum from Route 225.

        For those living nearer the new development (especially those living next door or across the street), the disruption of noise and vehicles must be multiplied many times. Once the roads and driveways are in place, of course, construction of the 35 houses will commence. According to the development application, construction must be completed within three years.

        At that point, 35 new houses with an estimated 70 vehicles will be added to the neighborhood. Consultants for the development project an additional 396 vehicle trips per day with 34 at the morning peak hour and 42 at the evening peak hour. Currently, the average daily vehicle count on Westford Street is 7,350, with approximately 12% occurring at the morning peak and 11% at the evening peak. The Greystone Crossing 22-lot development on Cross Street, down from the intersection with 225, will add 23 vehicle trips in the morning and 25 in the evening. The traffic consultants also estimated that 15% of the drivers on Route 225 traveled at speeds greater than the 35 mph current speed limit. To my eye, the new roadway comes up awfully fast after the bend in the road going to Westford.

        Rare spotted turtles and spotted salamanders are indigenous to the area. An apparently unique hive of wild honeybees has already perished in the logging activities (see the Mosquito, 1 August 2008). Thirty-five new homes will be mean 35 new wells, 35 new lawns, and all the attendant activity of humans and their pets.

        Perhaps 50 new students from the development will eventually attend our school system each year. It costs a little over $11,000 for each student to attend our schools for a year. To generate that much revenue in taxes, a house must be assessed at over $800,000. If the house has two children in the schools, the assessment must exceed $1.6 M. So, in all probability, our taxes will rise, if only slightly, due to these additional houses.

        Meanwhile, at the other end of Acton Street, long-time residents Elizabeth and John Valentine have just finalized a plan to protect the majority of their farm, including the fields that offer such a pastoral vista along Acton and West Streets (see the Mosquito, 1 August 2008). To be sure, their plan allows for 16 new house lots that will eventually add to Carlisle’s housing stock. But the fields and most of the woodlands will remain intact.         

     Acton Street connects two futures: full development, and controlled development with preservation. At some point in the near future we will reach that magic moment when our town – primal wilderness barely 350 years ago – will be completely “built out.” Then, residents new to Carlisle will arrive with only their possessions, and not an entirely new house as well.

     No one likes to see fields or woodlands become a cluster of houses. But we were all new to Carlisle at some point. And when we were new, someone inevitably welcomed us. Hanover Hill may someday house Selectmen, volunteers for the Conservation Commission, and writers for the Mosquito. However we get here, when we make that down payment and pay the taxes, we’re home.


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© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito