By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — A group of local residents has proposed a way to stop the construction of 196 apartments on Berry Street: Have the town buy the 26-acre site.
Robert Ercolini, lead sponsor of a citizens' petition supporting the purchase, has also asked the Community Preservation Committee to approve spending $2.5 million for the land. The petition, signed by Ercolini and 14 other residents, was filed with Town Clerk Joyce Bradshaw on March 6.
In the application he submitted to the Community Preservation Committee, Ercolini wrote that the purchase would preserve the old farmhouse on the property and provide a location for a fire station that would be closer to the southerly, "out-country" parts of the town.
North Andover's two fire stations are on Main and Salem streets, in the northern half of the community. The central station on Main Street will be replaced by a new facility at Prescott Street and Chickering Road.
Ercolini, a former selectman, could not be reached for comment.
The Zoning Board of Appeals, after more than a year of hearings, voted Feb. 25 to approve the project that North Andover Holdings LLC wants to build at the location of the former Berry Street Riding Academy. Neighbors on Berry Street and other nearby roads staunchly opposed the apartments.
Jeffrey Moon, president of the Berry Street Neighborhood Association, said the group is considering whether to appeal the Zoning Board's decision to Superior Court.