EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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July 8, 2014

College's dorm plans draw fire

Merrimack neighbors organize in opposition

NORTH ANDOVER — Neighbors of Merrimack College opposed to the school's plans for five new buildings have formed a group and started a petition to protest the college's proposal.

The college wants to build four new dormitories and a community center on Austin Field — a lush, tree-lined lot to the right of the college’s entrance on Elm Street in Andover. Three of the proposed buildings would be located in Andover and two in North Andover, with the community center in the middle.

The college met with neighbors back in June to unveil the plans. After the meeting, neighbors formed the Coalition for Merrimack College Smart Growth and started the petition, collecting 400 signatures so far.

"We knew we had to unite when we found about this," Jennifer Ross of Andover said.

Members of the group say they feel like their concerns have been ignored so far.

"I feel like they are just not being considerate neighbors," Joanna Reck of Andover said.

"They obviously don't respect us," Ross added.

However, a spokesman for the college says the school is sensitive to neighbors' concerns and plans to host a series of meetings in the near future with the public.

"I have a preference to sit down with the neighbors," Chief Operating Officer Jeff Doggett said. "I don't think it's productive to talk through mediums and not face-to-face."

Neighbors say they are opposed to the new buildings because they will add to the growing traffic problem on Elm Street. The field the dorm is being built on is often used for parking overflow during the college’s big events, like graduation and championship hockey games. When it’s empty, students play pick-up football and soccer games on the field.

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