NORTH ANDOVER — The Zoning Board of Appeals will most likely approve with conditions the construction of 196 apartments on Berry Street.
Edith Netter, an adviser hired by the board to guide members through the lengthy process of reviewing a Chapter 40B project, presented the first draft of a comprehensive permit last night. Chapter 40B, the state’s anti-snob zoning law, exempts proposals to build housing from local zoning regulations if at least 25 percent of the homes are set aside for tenants with below-average incomes.
The board closed the public hearing process Jan. 28, so discussion last night was limited to members of the panel.
“It would appear from the discussion that the board will approve the project with conditions,” said attorney Theodore Regnante, who represents the applicant, North Andover Holdings LLC. Regnante attended last night’s meeting along with Eric Loth, who heads the development firm, and others who have spoken in favor of the project.
The board is expected to vote on the project March 11.
Few if any of the neighbors who have opposed the project since it was first publicized more than a year ago showed up last night. Jeffrey Moon, president of the Berry Street Neighborhood Association, has said the group will appeal to Superior Court if the Zoning Board approves the apartments.
Netter proposed nearly 40 conditions, including a requirement that the complex have at least 130 parking spaces under the apartment buildings and no more than 231 surface parking spaces.
Ellen McIntyre, who has presided over the hearings on the project, asked if preference for renting apartments could be given to veterans. Netter said she would look into that possibility.
Another condition would bar the developer from any additional construction on the site.
Zoning Board member Paul Koch said he wants a guarantee in place that will prevent the complex from deteriorating into a blighted neighborhood. Fellow board member Allan Cuscia said the tenants would have the power to make sure potholes are fixed and other problems are resolved by withholding their rent.
McIntyre said if the owner of the apartments does not meet the conditions, the board could take legal action. The town will also have leverage by obtaining a performance bond from the developer.
One of the proposed conditions calls for directing Town Engineer Gene Willis to determine how much of a performance bond the town will request from North Andover Holdings LLC.
Other conditions would limit construction to 7 a.m. top 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday; require erosion controls; and insist that the apartments be completed within three years.
Cuscia said he doesn’t want the neighborhood to be stuck with “holes in the ground.”
“Once they start, they have to finish,” he said.
The Historical Commission has asked to take a look at the old farmhouse on the property before the developer tears it down. Zoning Board members indicated they want the commission to have that opportunity.
The town’s demolition delay bylaw empowers the Historical Commission to stop for up to a year the destruction of a building that’s more than a century old. The Zoning Board could have granted North Andover Holdings LLC a waiver from that bylaw, but members were not in the mood to do so.
“I don’t want to waive it,” Richard Byers said.
The Zoning Board will hold another working session on crafting a comprehensive permit with conditions Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.