EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 8, 2013

Lyons buys land to block developer

ANDOVER — State Rep. Jim Lyons — in the latest chapter of a decade-long saga between him and neighboring developer Bill Johnson — has purchased land with the sole purpose of blocking the developer’s work and keeping Johnson away from both his property and all nearby Lyons land.

In response, Johnson has filed to have probation terms against him — established as part of a criminal harassment case that the Johnson family is appealing — terminated because of how the recent purchase is effectively a taking of his own property, he said.

According to a warranty deed available through the Northern Essex Registry of Deeds, Bernadette Lyons — wife of State Rep. Jim Lyons — purchased 233R Andover St., also known as the “Steir lot,” for $125,000 on Nov. 12.

The small parcel, previously deemed unbuildable, is just over 25,000 square feet in size and was recently assessed at $8,100 in land value only, according to town data. The site is not connected to the Lyons’ property, a single-family home located around the corner on High Vale Lane.

The Steir lot abuts a large chunk of Reynolds Street, where site owners Bill and Gail Johnson have aimed to build a million dollar home since 2003.

In that quest, with a litany of appeals and court challenges behind plans that have earned approval time and time again, neighborhood disputes escalated over the last few years to the Johnsons being found guilty of harassing the Lyons family. While calling the integrity of the original trial into question, both Johnsons have served prison sentences and are currently appealing the decisions in an effort to clear their names.

The Steir lot, now under Lyons ownership, also includes utility infrastructure, such as water and sewer access, for the Reynolds Street property if and when it is built out. That infrastructure was installed by Johnson when he owned the site in 2005, he said.

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