By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — The Town Yard zoning pitch to go before voters at Annual Town Meeting is nearly complete, and officials are one step away from opening the door to public comment.
Voters at last year’s Annual Town Meeting rejected a plan to rebuild Andover’s Town Yard by 31 votes. With officials recently settling on relocating the facility off of Lewis Street, the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board have been putting a zoning proposal together to re-develop the existing Town Yard site.
Through that proposal, the town could open the doors to new development not currently allowed should the site become vacant.
The zoning would create an Andover Transit Oriented Development District (ATODD), named from the transit-oriented development that is hallmark to the plan. Transit-oriented development often relies on nearby transportation hubs like train stations, one of which exists on neighboring Railroad Street.
The district is limited to land around what officials have referred to as the “Golden Triangle,” formed by North Main, Pearson and Railroad streets. The three-acre Town Yard, on Lewis Street, sits at the center of that triangle.
Under the proposal, “design guidelines become more flexible,” Kenneth Buckland, principal of The Cecil Group and a designer on the project, said. “They don’t become something that can stop a project. What we want them to do is encourage good design and look for good design.”
The ATODD permit, issued as a special permit by the Planning Board, would control the size, congestion and scope of projects seeking to build around and within the existing Town Yard.
As part of the permitting process, developers have to present plans addressing how the development would perform under tight congestion, according to Buckland.
“The parking, the loading, the traffic, the pedestrian circulation, the egress points, the circulation outside of the property as well as the interior to the property, are all addressed in the plan,” Buckland said.
The proposal also establishes a minimum size for projects to be considered. While the proposal currently reflects projects that are two acres in size or larger, discussion between the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board Discussion this week teased the idea of lowering the requirement to increase flexibility.
“There are a million different ways you can break (the land) up,” Lelani Loder, member of the Planning Board, said. “If the town elected to sell just an acre of the three total to some of the abutters and a developer was to approach ... I mean, there are just a ton of different scenarios you can create.”
After discussing the plan, the boards also set up two dates to collect public feedback on the proposal. This marks the first time the Board of Selectmen has allowed the public to speak on the project.
Up to now, work on the Town Yard has been limited to a workshop environment, which the board established since the first session wasn’t going to allow for public comment.
Cyr Circle resident Mary Carbone, a frequent audience member at Board of Selectmen meetings and vocal opponent to relocating the Town Yard, restated her opposition to them Monday night.
“We’ve been having work sessions for quite some time,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Paul Salafia said. “I’ve been promising that we’d have some public meetings.”
The two boards will meet at Memorial Hall Library on Thursday, Feb. 7 and Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. to take in public input. A third meeting of Monday, Feb. 25 has also been established if necessary.
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