The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 8, 2009

Historical Commission: Why not go slow on Town Common pathway?

After obtaining Board of Selectmen (BOS) approval for a revised plan for completing pathways in the Town Center, Pathways Committee Chair Deb Belanger has obtained Historical Commission approval, tempered with a request that the committee consider the feasibility of relocating a section of proposed pathway. At their April 28 meeting the commission felt that an eleventh-hour offer from the First Religious Society (FRS) to cede a few additional feet of the Town Common at the intersection of Church and Concord Streets could lend frontage relief to two historic properties impacted by the pathways installation. The church and town share ownership of the Town Common.

“We’re approving the revised plan with a few conditions,” said Chairperson Peggy Hilton at the meeting, “and advocating a further look.”

Residents plead for further review

The revised plan before the Historical Commission represented compromises

reached between various committees and the residents affected by the pathway implementation dating back almost a year. However, the residents at the meeting voiced the opinion that they had not had sufficient time to consider the final changes to the plan that would maintain the two-way disposition of the

200-foot section of Church Street.

“The plan that was submitted with the application is not on the table,” said Sylvia Sillers, 49 Concord Street resident and an abutter to the pathways in question.“It is not proper procedure to present another plan with one-day notice – none of abutters had time to respond.”

A revised plan was submitted on April 27. The modifications to the plan occurred at the upper end of Church Street in front of the Hensleigh property, due to the lack of a requested easement. “Out of the 19 easement requests, we received 18,” said Belanger. “It is the first one we did not receive.” Cooperation by the FRS in widening the stretch of road across from the Hensleigh property enabled the retention of the two-way road all around the town green radius, and Belanger said “This was a great outcome.”

At the same time, the church offered a few more feet of additional space for the Church and Concord Street intersection. The commission heard that Sillers had just written a personal $1,000 check to the Selectmen to support further engineering review of the FRS newest offer. Commission member Geoffrey Freeman praised her largesse. “It’s not ‘largesse,’” said Sillers, “Doug Stevenson [Carlisle Selectmen Chairman] challenged me last night over the phone to put forward a check.” Jack O’Connor, 68 Church Street, another abutter at the intersection, said that Stevenson had spoken with him too.

Contacted later, Stevenson said he had suggested to Sillers and O’Connor that if they were interested in having another engineering study, that perhaps they would be willling to contribute. He said that the town has “spent significant amounts of money already to address the concerns of the Historical Commission and the abuttors.” As is turned out, the Selectmen approved the plan that had been completed and felt no need to accept Sillers’ check.

Pressure to act

Board member Chip Dewing said that although the Selectmen had not accepted the FRS idea, the Historical Commission could still consider it on behalf of the abuttors and asked, “Are we not as a commission the last line of defense?”

Hilton noted the pressure to act quickly to complete phase I of the pathways project (already one-year behind the original schedule) should not

rush the action at the Town Center, a very visible town location that will “be there long after we’re pushing up daisies.”

Belanger responded, “The plan is safe, appropriate, and received approvals of everyone involved.” She said that additional review could delay the work and impact the schedule and contractor agreement already in place, with the result that the work might need to be rebid. She said, “it’s possible that this will then move into the next season.”

Plan approved, with conditions

Hilton returned discussion to the plan before the Historical Commission dated August 13, 2009 with revisions on April 27, and reviewed each of the 11 conditions previously set by the commission. The revisions made two of the points moot, but nine conditions remained and the current plan met them. Four new conditions were then added:

• The sloped curbing in front of 49 Concord Street shall be extended to a minimum of ten feet south, such that the curbing ends five feet south of where the pathway meets the roadway.

• The pathway should remain outside the stone wall in front of the properties to try to preserve it as much as possible. If the site conditions are such that it is preferable to move the stone wall, the commission approves moving the western section that overlaps the pathway in the current plan, providing the wall is reconstructed.

• The two granite steps in front of 68 Church Street should become three steps, reflecting homeowner preference.

• If the plan’s design at the Concord Street intersection is altered to use up to four feet at the base of the Town Common at the intersection of Church and Concord Streets, then that would be approved.

The Historical Commission unanimously approved the plan with the conditions listed above. Voting members included Hilton, Freeman, Lamere and Dewing. Associate members without voting privileges included Larry Bearfield and Duncan Grant. Sillers, a board member, did not vote on the issue due to her conflict of interest as an abutter.

Further developments

Contacted later, Belanger said that although permits are in hand, the Pathways Committee will explore the abuttors’ request to realign the pathway. At an informal meeting on May 1, Belanger, Freeman and Stevenson met with representatives of Stamski and McNary. Stevenson said they asked the engineering firm if a quick drawing without significant engineering fees could be provided to show how additional pavement on the Town Common side might allow the road and path to shift slightly farther from the houses on that segment of Church Street. He said that results are expected within a few days. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito