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July 1, 2013

Regional plan balances need for development, preservation in Merrimack Valley

Some areas are ideal for development, with easy traffic access and infrastructure at the ready. Others deserve special protection to preserve open space, sensitive habitats and other environmental assets.

A new regional plan announced by Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration takes both development and preservation into account by identifying 25 “priority” areas in the Merrimack Valley.

From the Malden Mills site in Lawrence to Crystal Lake in Haverhill, the priority designations are expected to assist local and regional planners as they compete for state grants and funding for technical assistance.

“We have identified where we want to add growth and where we want to preserve,” said Dennis DiZoglio, executive director of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (MVPC). “We’re taking it to the next level. This is really an effort to target our governmental resources.”

DiZoglio said the priority areas in the state’s Merrimack Valley Regional Plan will receive preference for state and federal assistance, putting the region at an advantage over other areas in Massachusetts without similar plans.

A total of 13 areas have been identified for priority development, including these local projects:

In Andover: downtown, Brickstone Square, Interstate 93/Osgood Street, and River Road/Lawrence Industrial Park

In Haverhill: downtown Water Street, and the Upper Hilldale Industrial Park

In Lawrence: Malden Mills and the Merrimack Street Gateway

In North Andover: Osgood Landing and Machine Shop Village

Among the 12 state-designated priority preservation areas:

1,642 acres by Crystal Lake in Haverhill

1,536 acres by the East Meadow River in Haverhill and Merrimac

9,380 acres by the Parker River headwaters in Haverhill, North Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland and Newbury

1,491 acres near Haggetts Pond in Andover and Tewksbury

564 acres spread across eight parcels in North Andover

The preservation areas include farmland, sensitive habitats and environmental resources, potential links between existing open-space resources, and places of cultural or historical significance, according to the state.

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