The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 19, 2009

ZBA adopts new guidelines for 40B projects

At Monday night’s meeting, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) unanimously voted to accept new 40B Comprehensive Permit Regulations, which will guide the process of granting a comprehensive permit for 40B projects in Carlisle. A key part of the new regulations is the requirement that applicants provide sufficient data and defray the cost of technical experts that can assist the ZBA in evaluating a 40B development with respect to its impact on the local water supply and other resources.

After voting, ZBA Chairman Ed Rolfe said that the ZBA is “not in any hurry to adopt them, but I feel that if we don’t [make a decision, the issue] will get dragged on ad nauseum. I just don’t see that there is a lot of come-together on this now.” ZBA member Kevin Smith acknowledged that “there is a philosopical difference between sides of the room,” referring to the Planning Board, whose attorney drafted the new regulations, and Carlisle Housing Authority which finds them onerous, expensive and potentially illegal.

Housing Authoriy has objections

Alan Lehotsky, chairman of the Carlisle Housing Authority, had presented an itemized list during the hearing of the group’s objections to the proposed regulations in order to demonstrate that “significant issues” remain, and had asked the ZBA to delay the hearing for an additional six weeks. Lehotsky also stated that in conversations with town counsel, the Housing Authority’s understanding was that the proposed regulations are stringent and could be interpreted by the state as “aggressive” and as “pushing the limits” of state statute, which potentially could increase the risk for Carlisle being sued.

Planning Board supports regs

Michael Epstein, vice chairman of the Planning Board, stated that while both the Housing Authority and the Planning Board agree that the town needs these regulations, “the differences seem to be the amount of information required.” Planning Board Chair David Freedman added that he believes that Attachment A, the performance standard document, is what is causing the problem with the Housing Authority. “The purpose of Attachment A is to take the things that are most important to Carlisle and put them into a single place.”

Past history guided new regs

The move toward adopting new regulations was initiated by the ZBA in August of 2007 following the lengthy and hotly contested 40B hearing for the proposed 56-unit development known as Coventry Woods. A “40B Working Group” was formed, which consisted of Carlisle’s Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett; current and former members of the ZBA, Steve Hinton, Cindy Nock and Chair Ed Rolfe; and Selectmen Doug Stevenson and John Williams.

The goal of the group was to review past 40B applications and to evaluate current Carlisle rules and regulations in order to develop a checklist of items needed before 40B applications can go forward. The Coventry Woods hearing in particular exposed a need for a more structured process with increased financial protections for the town. The working group investigated 40B processes and fees in other towns. Based on this research, the working group vetted the possibilities and decided which changes should be adopted in Carlisle.

According to Rolfe, the Planning Board “picked up the ball” in terms of moving the regulation-drafting process forward. Last fall, the Planning Board hired attorney and certified urban planner Jon Witten, an expert with 40B regulations who also represented several Coventry Woods abutters, in order to prepare draft documents for further joint discussion with other town boards and commissions.

Material previously distributed by Witten made the following assessment: “Although Carlisle’s current regulations pertaining to 40B applications . . . are reasonably thorough, DHCD’s (Department of Housing and Community Development) new regulations purport to strip the Board of authority with respect to numerous areas, including its ability to examine project financing and the applicant’s preparedness to undertake the project. In light of the likely increase in comprehensive permit applications in Carlisle’s future, strategic revisions to the Board’s regulations targeting DHCD’s changes are critical to maintaining control of the comprehensive permit process.” (See “Planning Board Shorts, November 10,” Mosquito, November 14, 2008.)

Selectmen promise “fine-tuning”

At the close of the hearing, Chair of the Board of Selectmen Doug Stevenson said that the board will commit to working with the Planning Board and the Housing Authority in order to continue fine-tuning the regulations.

ZBA Chairman Rolfe adjourned the meeting with supportive words encouraging all town board members to work together. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito