The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hurdles delay Elliott Farms common drive application

The Elliott Farms property currently includes Map 1 Parcels 1, 1A, 1B, 3 and 3B. The land is located at the corner of Skelton and River Roads and borders the Concord River. (Map adapted by Marjorie Johnson)

The Planning Board continued the hearing on November 8 to change the common driveway for the Elliott Farms property at 121 Skelton Road, in order to give the applicant time to work out possible lot line changes and to reach an agreement with an abutter who shares the driveway. The continuation of the public hearing is scheduled for 8 p.m. on December 13.

Planning Board Chair David Freedman opened the public hearing on the request of the Rachel Webster Elliott Trust to amend the Common Driveway Special Permit originally issued in 1984. Freedman recused himself in that he is a member of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) which has an interest in some of the property. Vice-chair Michael Epstein conducted the rest of the hearing.

The proposal is to extend the common driveway to access additional house lots on Elliott Farms. The property to be subdivided is at the intersection of River and Skelton Roads at 291 River Road (Map 1 Parcels 1, 1A, 1B, 3, 3B) and extends to the Concord River. Nicholas Holmes, executor of the Elliott estate, said that the development plan is structured to preserve the working farm, community uses provided on the farm, and vistas as seen from Skelton and River Roads.

George Dimakarakos of Stamski and McNary Engineering showed graphics and photographs of the proposed subdivision of approximately 40 acres. In presenting the driveway(s) and lot lines he said that the lot boundaries may be changing as a result of negotiations with the CCF and Sudbury Valley Trustees.

CCF may protect a portion

CCF member Greg Peterson said that one of the lots might be of interest to the organizations if it can be configured for more river frontage and less of the open field. He said, “We consider this to be of importance not only to Carlisle as far as land preservation but also of regional importance because of the tremendous impact the development of this property would have on the Concord River. The entire northeast-facing bluff is visible for a 2 to 2-1/2 mile stretch of the river and the Route 225 bridge. It controls an important gateway to Carlisle – one of the most wild and scenic stretches of a nationally designated scenic road. In fact, you can see that bluff on the Elliott property all the way from Two Brothers Rock on the Billerica Bedford line.”

Abutter raises questions

Concord attorney Thomas Falwell, representing the Elliott family, is of the opinion that the trust can unilaterally request amendment of the special permit. Abutter Fontaine Richardson, whose property at 121 Skelton road shares the present common driveway, differs on this point. In a letter to the board, Richardson wrote, “Please note that we have been working diligently with the trust to attempt to address our concerns and to agree upon terms for an expansion in the use of the common driveway.” Vice-chair Michael Epstein said, “This board has been involved in common driveway neighborly disputes in the past. We urge you to come to some arrangement.”

Many speak in favor of application

Members of several organizations who continue to use the property spoke in favor of the project. Donna Cutler of the Yankee Golden Retriever Club spoke of the late Rachel “Pagey” Elliott as a dog breeder and one of the founding members of the club. Cutler appreciated use of the property for tracking and field trials and for duck training on the farm’s ponds. Carlisle resident Carolyn Ing supported the ongoing use of the property for the ARFF Agility Club (Agility is Really Fun for Fido).

Skelton Road resident Bob Stone said, “Directly adjacent to where the common driveway enters the property is a cow tunnel – not too many people know about it other than the people who live on the road. I wanted to make sure that if there is a widening of the entrance it doesn’t get disturbed. It is a historic part of the town.” Dimakarakos responded, “We are not planning to do any work there except for a required sign.”

Steve Golson, of Stearns Street, spoke in favor of preserving the open field and meadow, “One of the things that has driven the town to purchase land is preservation of vistas, preserving farmland and meadows. Trees come and go. Buildings come and go. Roads are forever.”

Elizabeth Platais, daughter of Elliott, thanked everyone for sharing their comments. She spoke for the Old North Bridge Hunt people who could not attend and said, “This property is crucial to them. They work their hounds there during the winter almost twice a week.

Next steps

Epstein asked Administrator George Mansfield to “reach out to Police and Fire [Departments] for a formal response” to the proposed driveway and fire cistern.

The Carlisle Conservation Commission is also reviewing the project. The common driveway extension would cross a perennial stream and work is proposed in bordering vegetated wetland, its 100-foot buffer zone, and within the 200-foot riverfront area. (See “ConsCom reviews development of Elliott Farms,” November 5.)

Nearby rare species habitat

not a roadblock

The property includes rare species and other wildlife habitat. However, Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard explained after the meeting that the wildlife habitat was not expected to play a part in the permitting process, since it is not near a proposed work area. A strip of the riverfront land includes Priority Habitat of Rare Species, according to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Most of the property is included on the Natural Heritage Program’s BioMap, which targets habitat for both rare and native species. Willard says that unlike the Priority Habitat of Rare Species, the BioMap is informational, and not a factor in the permitting process. Years ago the inland portion included a priority habitat area for the Yellow-spotted Turtle, but according to Willard, Natural Heritage has since delisted the turtle and removed its habitat areas from their priority maps. ∆

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