ANDOVER — The Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to allow the town to move forward with a plan to start the construction of the Bancroft Elementary School while appeals relating to wetlands on the property are pending.
The town's plan calls for changing the phasing of the project to build the $45 million new school before a proposed new access road off West Knoll Road.
The construction of the building itself will not impact the wetlands, which is the subject of the appeals, according to Tom Deso, chairman of the town's School Building Committee.
The committee will meet Wednesday morning to discuss how to move forward with the project.
"We will talk about the planning process to get construction started by the summer if we can," Deso said.
The MSBA has also approved the town's selection of Dore & Whittier, an architecture and project management firm in Newburyport, as the owner's project manager. The School Building Committee must also sign an official contract with the firm, Deso said.
Dore & Whittier will oversee the project for both the town and the MSBA, according to Maria Maggio, acting plant and facilities director.
The School Building Committee put construction of the new school on hold in September after several residents appealed the Conservation Commission's approval of the project under the state's Wetlands Protection Act and local bylaws.
The appeals were filed in superior court and with the state's Department of Environmental Protection.
Superior Court Judge Robert Cornetta and MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell both recently issued decisions in favor of the project. Both have been appealed further in Massachusetts Appeals Court and superior court.
The most recent appeals were filed by Dana Willis and Michael Noakes, who are both trustees of different properties on South Main Street.
Jason Scopa, a lawyer representing both Willis and Noakes, said there are concerns about the town moving forward with the project while the appeals remain unresolved.
"My clients have a long list of concerns about the impact upon their properties if the school is build as planned," Scopa said. "We feel the issues we have raised are worthy of judicial review. My clients have no problem with the school being built as long as it is done in compliance with all the applicable local and state regulations and in a manner that doesn't affect their properties."
He said the major issues are stormwater management, contamination from a nearby water tank and proper delineation of the wetlands.
Originally the new permanent access road off West Knoll Road was to be built first so the school's current driveway could be used for construction access, while the new road would be used for car and bus traffic. The appeals affect the construction of the access road, several playing fields and a portion of a parking lot.
Maggio said the School Building Committee is considering two different options for temporary construction access to the school property — one off Bancroft Road and the other off West Knoll Road. If selected, the West Knoll temporary driveway would be routed around the wetlands, she said.
Town officials have said they are confident the courts will side with the town and the project will be completed as proposed. But if the town loses the appeals, the temporary driveway selected may become the permanent access driveway to the school, according to the MSBA's approval letter.
The rephasing of the project will not change the overall design of the building as approved by the MSBA and Town Meeting, Deso said.
The town will not be able to seek MSBA reimbursement for the costs associated with rephasing the project, according to the letter.
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