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Another Delay for ZBA Berry Street Project Vote

The plan calls for almost 200 apartments in the rural neighborhood off Route 114.

Curt Bellavance, director of Community Development, consults with the Zoning Board of Appeals about the final plan for a 40B development for Berry Street.
Curt Bellavance, director of Community Development, consults with the Zoning Board of Appeals about the final plan for a 40B development for Berry Street.
In what was supposed to be the final hearing on a controversial 40B project for Berry Street, the Zoning Board of Appeals has again put off a vote.

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.

Rocky Road

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.

Neighborhood Revolt

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.

Getting There

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.
patrick lavery January 29, 2014 at 07:13 AM
The project will introduce 1500 vehicle trips per day going to and from site. That means Berry, Ash, Campbell and Colonial roadways will all have many, many, many more cars daily. Only the immediate site of the project was reviewed for traffic and safety, the rest of the area was not a concern of the review board since the developer said it would not matter much. The project buildings will be about the height of some of the mill building sin town. No problem finding your way to them. Much of the discussion last evening was focused on two signs that were about 10 square feet. There was less discussion about 65 foot tall buildings. This project will set the standard for any and all other projects like it to be proposed by developers for this town. Watch out if you buy a home with open space nearby.
Bob Ercolini January 29, 2014 at 09:04 AM
60 feet is far too high for the rural nature of the site. You don't need 196 unit complex to be viable. The developer should be thinking about the long term market appreciation of a more appropriately sized development and the very real need to ensure that it can become a welcomed addition to the neighborhood by not depreciating the values of neighbor's homes. The historical commission should thoughtfully consider whether the historical significance of the home and it's setting is something that should be brought to town meeting to take by eminent domain. After all that was the purpose of the by law in the first place. It was to give the town a chance to protect such properties. The fact the members of the ZBA only found about this last night is cause for concern about the truthfulness of the developer, given the Town's By law. Perhaps the possibility of litigation on a variety of issues and creeping interest rates may help forge an acceptable compromise with neighbors today to ensure a successful future development for the families who will perhaps, reside there tomorrow. The developer needs to understand that it is the second use of the property where significant economic benefits are available if the project is designed today to meet that market.
Bob Ercolini January 29, 2014 at 09:08 AM
By the way, the neighbors don't need the historical commissions approval to bring this issue to town meeting, or even a special town meeting within two months if they receive the support of the selectmen as it would be a money issue. That litigation could take some significant time to resolve itself but North Andover has a right to protect its historical buildings and their settings.
Observer January 29, 2014 at 11:54 AM
Andy Beresford January 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM
I am so sick of these scumbag developers and their 40b housing developments. This town is full!
Observer January 29, 2014 at 11:56 AM
Anyone living anywhere near 114 recognizes that there is already far too much traffic on it, day and night in both directions. The road is in terrible shape as well. Another 1500 vehicle trips per day? Ridiculous.
Michael Quinlan January 29, 2014 at 12:02 PM
As the area begins to look like a housing project and your formally rural home's value drops, be sure to remember the Democrat Party that gave you 40B. Isn't social engineering fun?
Michael Quinlan January 29, 2014 at 12:16 PM
Oh, Berry and Campbell/Ash are little more than paved cart paths, winding and extremely narrow. Also, the back entrances to the parking lots of the Equestrian Center and the small office building facing Rt. 114 will be choked by the project's generated traffic. These lots will be extensively used to access Rt. 114 from the project so they'll be three busy egresses onto Rt. 114 within 200 yards.
MikeA January 29, 2014 at 01:32 PM
I'm not going to fault the developer. The developer, as far as I can tell, is following the law ... If you own property, you should be able to develop it. If you don't like the 40B laws, blame the lawmakers.
Michael Quinlan January 30, 2014 at 10:57 AM
Developer is jumping through the hoops designed by North Andover politicians (chiefly Democrats or other socialist fellow travelers) to circumvent the unpopular local impact of the 40B law passed by MA State Democrats. Blame the Democrats.
patrick lavery February 02, 2014 at 08:12 AM
http://berrystreetna.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/January-31-2014a.jpg The link takes you to an image of a car that crashed on Campbell Road this past week. This happened minutes after my daughter was dropped off the school bus and walked by where the car crashed through a tree and then into a large bolder. Next week should be a busy week for North Andover's Safety Officer and the Superintendent of Schools as we need to understand how near misses like this ever happen. Furthermore, for the Berry Street Developer to close their eyes as if they will not make it worse is irresponsible development. The fact that the ZBA never asked for a more in-depth traffic safety assessment, after a year of requests from the neighborhood, is just as irresponsible.


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