EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 30, 2013

Preserving a Place for Veterans

More than $460K in preservation funds approved for homeless vets

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Fourteen local residents who have served in the military need a place to live, according to Veterans Services Officer Edgar Mitchell.

There is now hope for at least three of them. The proposal to create homes for veterans at 138 High St. got a boost April 18 when the Community Preservation Committee voted unanimously to recommend spending $462,000 on the project.

The Finance Committee later also approved the plan. Voters at the May 21 annual Town Meeting will have the final say. The Community Preservation Committee makes recommendations on how the town should spend the money it raises from the 3 percent surcharge on real estate tax bills.

Mitchell, John Ratka, executive director of the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, and other members of the Veterans Housing Task Force initially proposed putting five apartments on the site - now occupied by a vacant house. Neighbors objected to having that many, so Mitchell and Ratka compromised and reduced the number to three apartments.

“We have decided not to do Phase 2,” Ratka said. The first phase of the project initially called for rehabilitating the house into two apartments, while the second phase proposed building another house on the property with three apartments.

The Veterans Housing Task Force will either rehabilitate the house at 138 High St. and build an addition for the third apartment or tear down the structure and construct a three-family house.

“Cost effectiveness will drive that (decision),” Ratka said. “I really think it’s going to cost more not to tear it down.” In any event, one apartment will have three bedrooms, another will have two and the third will have just one bedroom, Ratka said.

Community Preservation Committee Chairman John Simons noted the task force will need to obtain a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals to add a third home to the structure. Committee member Bradford Wakeman asked why the group chose 138 High St.

Mitchell said the group “looked at a lot of properties.”

“I like the project,” committee member Terry Holland said. His colleague Deborah Feltovic said she also supported the plan.

Leonard Provost, of 157 High St., who lives close to the site, said that while he appreciated the willingness of the backers of the project to compromise, he was “still concerned about congestion.”

Simons suggested the project will have a “relatively benign effect” on the neighborhood. Daniel Drover, of 126 High St., who said last week he opposed having two houses on the property, said he was pleased with the compromise.

“I think it’s the right plan. I think we’re going in the right direction,” he said. Mitchell and Ratka said preference will be given to North Andover veterans.

Some of the neighbors wondered about the possibility of non-veterans living at 138 High St. Ratka said there are no non-veterans living in the properties his agency manages in Haverhill.