EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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October 14, 2013

Second site for Ballardvale station emerges

ANDOVER — As the Ballardvale Fire Station Building Committee — charged with recommending locations for a new Ballardvale Fire Station — is putting together its final report for the Board of Selectmen.

In the report, the group is expected to recommend two locations for a new station, which would replace the 120-year-old station on the corner of Andover Street and Clark Road.

Option one is to put it at the corner of Andover and Woburn streets, on property currently occupied by a baseball diamond that is part of the South Elementary School property. Town officials say it is the ideal site for the project even though there has historically been stiff neighborhood opposition.

Option two is a recently offered site on Reynolds Street, which includes a private lot that connects to Andover Street just down the road from South School.

But both locations come with problems.

The Reynolds Street property is saddled with a lengthy legal history as it is the site of a long-standing legal battle between property owners William and Gail Johnson and an abutting neighbor, state Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover.

When reached for comment, Lyons said he was aware that the site was being proposed as a home for Ballardvale Fire Station, but he declined further comment.

That legal battle, while it has been a factor in the Johnsons’ plans to build a single-family home at the site, “isn’t really germane to our decision” to recommend it as a place for a fire station, committee member Jim Curtis said at a recent meeting.

What is germane to the decision is the site’s details — it is flat, it already has utility access and it has had most of its trees cleared from the property already, according to Fire Chief Mike Mansfield.

One problem, however, is its location, as the driveway would be at the top of a hill and on a corner, which could create traffic challenges should a station be put there, the committee members contend.

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