Sticking points involve the condition that no additional buildings are put on the property as well as the demolition of a nearly 200-year-old house. And then there's the size of the project, which has created turmoil among both the board and the neighborhood.
"It's still a significant presence, but it's not a presence that snaked all the way to 114 and on to Campbell Road for heaven's sake," board member Paul Koch said.
North Andover Holdings LLC filed the proposal under Chapter 40B, a state law that requires a certain percentage of a town's new units be affordable and also allows developers to work around local zoning bylaws.
Since then, there have been discussions between that company, the board and neighbors. The project has been reduced from 240 units to 196. Buildings have been moved to leave more open space.
"The applicant said this is their final plan, so this is the number we're working with," board member Richard Byers said.
Koch suggested adding a restriction keeping additional buildings from being constructed on the property, but the company would only agree to that if neighbors do not appeal the approval.
"I think right now our job is to make a decision based on the application," North Andover Holdings Eric Loth said, calling the condition a restriction of property rights. "If we get tied up for a couple years banging our heads against the wall... If Gov. Patrick says we have more demand, do I want that in my back pocket? Yes."
Without such a restriction, if the town still has less than 10 percent affordable housing the developer could come back with another 40B proposal to add to the development.
And for opponents, the project is already too big for the rural road off Route 114. The latest concern involves height. The modified 196-unit plan would create two four-story buildings and two three-story buildings. The taller buildings would reach more that 60 feet when finished.
"My problem is still with the number of units," board member Allan Cuscia said. "This project looks like something out of the Bronx," Cuscia said.
Berry Street Neighborhood Association President Jeff Moon spoke in opposition to the proposal. That group of residents have organized a campaign against the project based on its size and potential impact on the area.
"If this application is approved as is, what is to stop other developments in our neighborhoods squeezed between our homes, towering over us?" Moon said.
Attorney Theodore Regnante, representing North Andover Holdings, said there is no further need for studies on unit reductions and redesign because that's not required unless there are health concerns and environmental issues.
"We have addressed... the issues having to do with health, safety, environmental design, open space, planning and other concerns," Regnante said.
Lisa Eggleston of Eggleston Environmental -- the company that consulted with the board on wetland concerns -- told the board Tuesday that after months of revisions the site is good to go from their perspective.
"This process has been designed to be compliant with storm water standards over 100 percent of the site," Eggleston said.
But then there's an old farmhouse on the property that the developer plans to tear down, a farmhouse built in 1825. So the Historical Commission has the right to impose a demolition delay (as they have in the demolition of the Bradstreet School property).
"This is the first time of me hearing the house is more than 100 years old that you're planning on demolishing," board Vice Chair Ellen McIntyre said.
A 1-year delay may not make any difference.
"Realistically we probably wouldn't be able to build before then," Loth said.