Friday, April 30, 2010
Housing Authority looks to new Benfield easements
Easements will be needed for the Benfield Farms affordable housing project, in order to clarify access rights across the four portions of the 45-acre town property on South Street. However, the Housing Authority decided at its meeting on April 22 that it would be prudent to complete the rest of the design process before writing additional easements.
The land was purchased in 2004 for conservation and recreation as well as housing. The Benfield Farms project to construct 26 units of senior rental housing is being developed by the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH). The housing is to be located on parcel 1, the portion of the property near the road, while the septic system and well are to be located in the rear of the property on parcel 4 (see map at right), the open space area deeded to the Conservation Commission (ConsCom). Parcels 2 and 3 are controlled by the Recreation Commission (RecCom). The access to parcel 4 crosses parcel 2. (The terms “parcel”, “lot” and “area” are all used to refer to the four sections of the property.)
Parcels 2, 3 and 4 are under conservation restrictions (CRs). Those for Parcels 2 and 3 are held by the private Carlisle Recreation Trust, while that for parcel 4 is held by the private Carlisle Conservation Foundation. The CRs explicitly allow the construction of a well and septic system, but do not include language granting access onto the parcels, needed to install and maintain the equipment.
In addition, Lehotsky said, “Right now there is an easement across parcel 1 to allow the public access to parcels 2, 3 and 4, but it’s a ‘floating easement’ because nobody knows exactly where the road will be.” The easements can only specify the precise location of any structure once the design process is complete.
Clarifying the access rights would not be needed for NOAH to apply for local permits, but will be needed for financing and for the state permit for the well construction, Chair Alan Lehotsky later explained. He expects that Town Counsel will be asked to draft the new easement language, to be signed by representatives from the ConsCom, RecCom, Housing Authority and CR holders, all local Carlisle groups. Lehotsky said, “It’s not a serious problem. It’s all town-owned land.”
ConsCom requests and findings
The Housing Authority authorized $1,000 for a consultant requested by the ConsCom to review and reflag the wetlands on the Benfield property, utilizing money designated for the authority’s engineering studies. There is about $33,000 left in that designated coffer. Lehotsky then reported on the recent ConsCom hearing, where it was mentioned that the west stream on the Benfield property may be a perennial stream that qualifies for additional Department of Environmental Protection oversight.
Because the well will qualify as a public water supply, there will be limitations on what can be done on the land immediately surrounding the wellhead. Lehotsky also reported that the ConsCom wants NOAH to move the development’s well as far off the open upland as possible. Zone one, the area immediately surrounding a public water supply well, is a no-build zone. The next region out from the well head also has limitations.
Lehotsky said moving the well may not be practicable, because it might trigger additional regulatory reviews and expense, particularly if the restricted zones were to extend beyond the town’s property onto abutter’s land. He continued, “ConsCom is doing its job, trying to minimize destruction to conservation land, but the amount of destruction will be minimal because all that would be built is a well.”
Lehotsky then reported on a meeting held the previous evening (see “Housing Trust tries to finalize accessory apartment program,”). “The net result,” said Lehotsky, “was that not much was accomplished other than concluding that there are still a few loose ends, mostly that the Housing Trust has to decide: how the loan or grant is structured and how to take off the deed restriction if somebody opts out of the program.” There are currently 12 legal accessory apartments in town. None count toward the town’s quota of affordable housing stock, as they would if registered as AAAs. ∆
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