The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 5, 2009

Village Court “willing to consider” expansion

The under-utilization of the wastewater treatment plant at the Carlisle School may offer an opportunity for additional low-income housing at Village Court on Church Street. On Thursday, May 28, Joe March of Stamsky and McNary surveyors reported to members of Carlisle Elderly Housing Association (CEHA), owners of Village Court, and the Housing Authority and Housing Trust, that it could be feasible to expand Village Court, adding up to 12 new units to the current 18. Such an expansion would help Carlisle increase its inventory of affordable housing as required by state law 40B, and possibly provide a new centrally-located community center.

In order to accomplish the expansion, the entire Village Court development and the Gleason Library would be tied into the treatment plant at the school and the septic systems abandoned. This would open up land that currently serves as leaching field. CEHA President Bert Williams emphasized that his organization’s interest is “to see if buildable land would exist” and that no decision has been made to implement.

March presented a “concept plan” that would add a 3,000 square foot community building with parking to the west side of the property, with two additional six-unit buildings and parking extending to the east of the existing Sleeper Community Center. This plan involved rotating the building currently to the east of Sleeper about 90 degrees. The other two existing housing buildings and the Sleeper Center would remain as they are.

CEHA board member Tom Raftery later said, “I believe the board would not be in favor of rotating the building with it full of residents.” He added, “Since the plan is only a concept, if the project begins, I am sure that there will be extensive discussions concerning varying concepts and approaches to expansion.”

March explained that his concept plan was accomplished inexpensively by looking at town maps and overlaying wetlands information to see if an expansion is feasible given town regulations and setbacks. To move ahead, the property would need to be surveyed to confirm the information is accurate. There is also some “fuzziness” regarding ownership of one of the three parcels that comprise the 4.46 acres on which Village Court is sited, but “that doesn’t significantly affect things.”

He then noted a few potential obstacles. Zoning currently restricts the site to five units per acre, and this would have to be changed at Town Meeting to allow seven. However, this is the only site in town with district M zoning, so a change would not affect other locations, and should be straightforward.

Siting new wells may be tricky

More complex is the issue of wells. Expansion beyond 25 residents would trigger adherence to public water supply regulations. The plan presented would require two or three new wells, and no building, septic system, or paving could exist within at least 100 feet. Siting the wells to the east of the buildings is possible, but would require easements from abutters as the restricted areas would cross lot lines.

Alternatives to the easements may be possible, including bringing water from other areas, purchasing an adjoining lot that is for sale, or sinking a well into the town-owned adjacent Lot 10. The latter is a wetland, and it was unclear whether the Conservation Commission would agree to a well there. “You can put a well on wetlands,” said March. “It’s not very easy. The simplest would be the easement option.”

Another issue was the size of the proposed community center, which would be restricted to 54 people based on available parking. Stevenson asked if it was worth the effort at such limited capacity, and Housing Trust member Tim Hult pointed to a better kitchen, more storage, and the fact that “fifty’s a lot better than thirty,” the current capacity at Sleeper.

But Williams said, “I’d like to get to 100 or more,” and suggested additional underground parking. He added, “A community building would be a great asset for the town.” Lehotsky suggested the zoning for Village Court could be changed to allow off-site parking, either on the street or at the library off-hours, and this would remove the 54-person restriction.

Housing contained in one building of three stories would be less expensive and “a much better use of space” with the slope of the land hiding much of the height, Lehotsky believed. He also noted the state is unlikely to offer financial support to a second elderly housing project in Carlisle given it is already funding Benfield. Raftery said his assumption was the project would try to qualify for federal funds as a HUD 202.

Bert Williams wondered if CEHA is prepared to take on a large development project, saying “Unfortunately, we don’t have a Vivian Chaput [the driver of the original Village Court development.”]But Raftery stated optimistically, “I think the board would be in favor” if questions could be answered regarding funding and water issues. “Now I could be absolutely wrong,” he added.

Williams also wanted to be “convinced of a demonstrable need” and was assured there is demand for elderly housing. Housing Trust member John Williams pointed to a long waiting list for the 26 units at the town’s proposed Benfield Farms senior housing development, and Carlisle’s Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett noted a 198-unit elderly housing project on Route 2 has had “no problem filling units.” Hult said that if the town is to develop more senior housing, a location close to the library, Ferns Country Store, churches, and pathways “makes a heck of a lot of sense to me.”

It was decided that if the CEHA board is interested in moving forward, the next step would be for CEHA to approach abutters and start discussions about obtaining the needed easements.

Village Court receptive

According to Raftery, the CEHA board met a few days later. “While there was no vote, there was a unanimous consensus that the board is willing to consider expansion of Village Court if its concerns are met. Those concerns include, but are not limited to, water, sewage and funding, the three major hurdles facing it at this point.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito