EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 24, 2013

Berry Street project developer reduces number of units

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The developers who want to build affordable housing on Berry Street have reduced the number of apartments from 240 to 216.

Eric Loth, director of North Andover Holdings LLC, told the Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday night that the plan now calls for four buildings containing 64, 60, 48 and 44 apartments. The initial plan proposed five buildings with 48 homes each.

Cal Goldsmith, an engineer for the project, said the revised plan reduces the area that would be paved by 25 percent. There will be no construction in the wooded portion of the 27-acre site, which is near Route 114, he added.

The neighbors, however, are still opposed to the project. Jeffrey Moon, president of the Berry Street Neighborhood Association, said the 4-story height of the buildings is not appropriate for the area. He and others who spoke against the plan were applauded.

Deborah Labrie, of 25 Windsor Lane, said the apartments will bring too much traffic to Berry Street, a narrow, rural road.

“It is extremely dangerous,” she said.

The Zoning Board of Appeals did not render a decision on the project. The board’s next meeting on the Berry Street proposal will take place Nov. 12.

Although the board has held numerous hearings on the large-scale plan — the first hearing took place Jan. 24 — a decision is not likely within the next few weeks, according to Ellen McIntyre, who has been presiding over the panel’s deliberations on the project. The chairman of the board, attorney Albert Manzi, recused himself from the proceedings related to the Berry Street plan.

North Andover Holdings LLC applied for a permit to build the apartments under Chapter 40B, the state law that exempts developers from local zoning regulations if at least 25 percent of the homes they plan to build are set aside for people earning below-average incomes.

Fifty-four of the apartments proposed for Berry Street would be considered affordable. Chapter 40B applies to North Andover because less than 10 percent of its housing is considered affordable by the state Department of Communities and Development.

While they’re still a long way from voting on the project, several board members expressed their concerns about the developer’s plans.

“You’re asking us to throw them (neighbors) under the bus,” Allan Cuscia told Loth. Holding up a copy of “Man of the House,” the book that U.S. House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill wrote about his 50-year political career, Cuscia recommended it to Loth and his development team.

“Learning how to compromise,” he said, was O’Neill’s main message.

“My concern is basically the number of units,” Cuscia said.

Fellow board member Paul Koch said he was “in the same place with Allan.” He said he would feel better about the project if Loth reduced the number of apartments to 180.

Colleague Richard Byers suggested there are other areas in the town that would be more appropriate for a large number of apartments. He also pointed out that this location, less than a mile from the Middleton town line, is not close to public transportation.