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April 12, 2013

Group asks to build veterans homes on High Street in North Andover

NORTH ANDOVER — Despite fighting for their homeland, veterans frequently don’t have a home to call their own when they return from overseas duty.

Veterans’ Services Officer Edgar Mitchell told the Community Preservation Committee last night that he was working with a veteran who was living in his car. Mitchell said he was able to get a home for the veteran until a local landlord stepped forward.

Mitchell said there are now 14 North Andover veterans who need housing. It is for that reason Mitchell and other members of the Veterans Housing Task Force propose to buy a vacant, rundown two-family house at 138 High St. and transform it into two homes for people who have served in the military and their families.

They also hope to erect another building on the three-quarters-of-an-acre site that would have three apartments for veterans. Mitchell, John Ratka, executive director of the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, and other task force members appeared before the Community Preservation Committee last night to request $391,000 for the project.

The committee is charged with recommending how the town should spend the proceeds of the 3 percent community preservation surtax residents pay on top of their real estate taxes. Town Meeting has the final word.

Several neighbors of the proposed veterans housing expressed concerns about the project, but Ratka spoke with them after the meeting and said he will answer their questions. Mitchell said the project “is going to improve a distressed property.”

Ratka, whose organization has built many homes for veterans in Haverhill, said the renovated structure will be “something that enhances the neighborhood.” Daniel Lanen, a task force member, said the proposal is compatible with the High Street neighborhood, which has many multifamily houses, he noted.

Several neighbors said they were most bothered by the plan to build another house on the property.

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