The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 6, 2009

Historic Clark Farm to be sold

The landmark Clark Farm greets Carlisle visitors on their way to the Town Center from Concord Street. With its wide vistas, enormous red barn with white silo and historic house built in 1742, it offers an iconic first impression of Carlisle that reflects the town’s dairy farming history. Since 2003, the land has been protected under a conservation restriction (CR) held by the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF). However, the recent announcement that the property is for sale raises questions: What changes could a new owner make? Could the barn be put to modern use? Might these unique structures disappear?

The farm was purchased by the Clark family in 1898 and was in dairy operation until the mid-1980s. Guy and Dot Clark, the most recent owners, were long-time community leaders, and the Clark Room at Town Hall honors Guy Clark’s contributions as Town Assessor (39 years) and Town Moderator (16 years). After Guy’s death, Dot Clark joined with abutters Grant and Helene Wilson to finalize and sign agreements with the CCF to preserve 64 acres of open land, 9.7 acres of which comprise the current Clark Farm. The original farm spanned the two properties.

Greg Peterson, who was the CCF chair at the time, says that in 1986 Guy Clark had signed an agreement that allowed for some lots to be carved from the original farm and for the rest of the land to be conserved. The 2003 CR formalized the protected status and delineated what activities could occur. In accordance with the family’s wishes, two building envelopes were designated where the Clark house and part of the barn currently stand. A new owner could retain the current buildings or, it appears, replace one or both with a new single-family home.

Phyllis Cohen of Keller Williams Realty says the property is being marketed “for the beauty of the farm and its legacy and heritage. It’s the backbone of Carlisle.”

I recently toured the unique and charming house, which offers 15 rooms and 3,800 square feet of living space on three levels. The dining room and living room contain the original hearth and fireplace. Cohen hopes for a buyer who will appreciate the house for its period originality. She notes it is in very good condition for its age, and offers modern amenities such as a large kitchen and first-floor laundry room.

I also visited the barn, and it was impossible not to be impressed by the size of the operation the Clarks once managed. The floor space of the barn is football field sized – perhaps as much as 10,000 square feet – a magnificent space, but a potential challenge for a new owner to use and maintain. In addition, there are numerous haylofts, a milking parlor below, a livestock shed and an equipment garage.

Cohen speculates that someone with horses could buy the farm and keep it in agriculture. Agricultural uses are protected by the CR, and the property is under a Chapter 61A restriction that reduces taxes for properties kept in agricultural or forestry use. A public trail connects the property to School Street.

Alternatively, a 1998 bylaw allows barns and outbuildings built prior to 1932 to be converted for commercial use. With approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals the Clark barn would qualify. However any change of use of the property that takes it out of agriculture could prompt a rollback of taxes under Chapter 61A.

Cohen points to the “significant gift to the town” the Clark family made in preserving so much of their farm rather than breaking it up for development. She hopes a buyer can be found who will continue this legacy of preservation. The property can be viewed at ∆

Clark Conservation Restriction preserves vistas, allows agricultural use

The Clark conservation restriction (CR) recorded July 28, 2003 notes an intent for the 9.7 acres to “be retained in perpetuity predominantly in their natural scenic and open condition and to prevent any use of the premises that would significantly impair or interfere with the conservation value of the premises.” It notes the value of joining this CR with the Wilson CR to provide “an unusually large, open . . . area in greater Boston.”

Within the protected area, the CR forbids any building, pool, or tennis court, mining, dredging, or fill, cutting of vegetation or trees, or actions that could affect drainage. However it allows unpaved pathways for walking, skiing or riding, as well as agricultural activities including cultivation and harvesting of crops, flowers or hay; planting of trees; grazing of livestock; mowing; installation of sight-pervious fencing; irrigation piping; and use of the pond for irrigation. No structure or riding arena is allowed. The CR also allows only “de minimis commercial activity” on the protected land, which Peterson explained prevents the establishment of hunting camps or other large-scale commercial abuses of protected status.

The two building envelopes are 175 feet wide starting at Concord Street. Within the envelopes allowed activities include residential maintenance and repair; maintenance and use of the barns and garage; driveways, lawns, gardens, and fences. It also provides for wells, septic and utilities “ordinary and customarily incidental to a single-family residence.”

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