EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 27, 2014

ZBA approves 196 apartments on Berry Street by 4-1 vote

Opponent says neighborhood group will review decision before launching legal battle

NORTH ANDOVER — After more than a year of hearings and meetings, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the plan to build 196 apartments on Berry Street by a 4-1 vote Tuesday night.

Because 25 percent of the homes will be set aside for tenants earning low and moderate incomes, the project is exempt from most local zoning regulations.

"I felt the board rushed the decision," said Jeffrey Moon, president of the Berry Street Neighborhood Association, which has opposed the project since it was announced in late 2012. He noted that Edith Netter, an adviser hired by the board, said the decision did not have to be made Tuesday night.

Asked if his group will challenge the decision in Superior Court, Moon said they will "continue to seek legal guidance." The Berry Street Neighborhood Association hired attorney Jon Witten, who has offices in Newton and Duxbury, several months ago.

Moon said they will review the final draft of the decision before launching a legal battle.

Attorney Ted Regnante, who represents the developer, North Andover Holdings LLC, noted the decision will not actually become official until it is submitted in writing to Town Clerk Joyce Bradshaw. The decision must also be reviewed by the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, he said.

Asked if he was ready to claim victory, Regnante said that before commenting, "We want to see the final decision." His client, he said, is eager to start construction "as soon as possible."

When the hearing process began at the end of January of last year, neighbors packed the meeting room on the second floor of Town Hall to express their opposition to the project. They maintained the apartments were not appropriate for their neighborhood of single-family homes.

They also pointed out that Berry Street is a narrow, winding road that will become more dangerous if hundreds of new residents move into the area. The developer has pledged to realign the intersection of Berry Street and Route 114 to make it safer.

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