EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 26, 2013

Selectmen reject housing proposal

By Paul Tennant
ptennant@eagletribune.com

---- — NORTH ANDOVER – By a 4-1 vote, the selectmen last night rejected a proposal to redevelop the vacant Bradstreet School into affordable homes.

The Coalition for a Better Acre, a nonprofit corporation based in Lowell, initially proposed demolishing the century-old school and constructing a mixed-use building that would have had 5,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 24 apartments for lower-income tenants on the second and third levels.

After several residents voiced strong opposition to tearing down the school at the Feb. 11 selectmen’s meeting, the Coalition presented an alternative plan that called for remodeling the school into 12 affordable apartments. Two other triple-decker-style buildings, each with six apartments, would have been erected on the property.

The new plan eliminated retail space and that guaranteed its defeat, according to comments from selectmen.

After meeting behind closed doors for 35 minutes, selectmen Chairman William Gordon said he and his colleagues had concerns about the proposal.

Gordon and Selectman Richard Vaillancourt said they want to see businesses located at the 70 Main St. property. Selectman Rosemary Connelly Smedile thanked Emily Rosenbaum, executive director of the Coalition for a Better Acre, and Madeline Nash, the developer’s real estate director, for the effort they put into the plan.

“I don’t agree with your proposal. I’m not sold on it,” she said.

Carl Langlois, of 66 Saunders St., whose street is at the rear of the school yard, said he and his neighbors fear additional homes on the site will add to the traffic congestion in the area.

George Taylor noted the town has been “wrestling” with what to do with Bradstreet School for years.

“You have to take into account this is the only proposal that came in,” he said.

Selectman Tracy Watson, who manages the Woodridge Homes affordable housing near Waverly Road, said the Coalition for a Better Acre is among the better developers in the region. Watson said she is very familiar with the homes the Coalition has built for lower-income people in Lowell.

“There’s nothing I want to see more than more businesses on Main Street,” she said. Like Taylor, she pointed out the town has been trying to figure out what to do with Bradstreet School since it closed in 2005.

“We’ve got to wake up and realize something has to be done with the Bradstreet School,” said Watson, who cast the only vote in favor of the Coalition’s plan. Gordon, Vaillancourt, Smedile and Donald Stewart voted against it.

The selectmen instructed Town Manager Andrew Maylor to send out a new request for proposals for the property, on which the town spends about $40,000 each year to maintain. The June 12, 2012, annual Town Meeting voted unanimously to authorize the selectmen to sell Bradstreet School.