EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 26, 2013

Plan to build apartments draws opposition

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER – This week’s bitter cold failed to stop at least 50 residents of the Berry Street neighborhood from going to Town Hall and voicing their opposition to a plan to build 240 apartments.

The developer, North Andover Holdings LLC, intends to build the homes at the site of the former Berry Street Riding Academy at 16 Berry St. Because 60 of the apartments would be set aside for people who earn below-average incomes, a state law, Chapter 40B, exempts the project from local zoning regulations.

One of the members of North Andover Holdings LLC is Louis Minicucci, a local real estate developer who attended Thursday night’s hearing. The manager of the firm is Eric Loth, also a local man.

“We want to work with you in good faith to come up with something that makes sense,” attorney Theodore Regnante, who represents the developer, told the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The neighbors noted Berry Street is a narrow, winding road that is barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other – especially during the winter. They also said the soil on the site, close to Route 114, is too wet to support the five, four-story buildings that are planned.

One of the neighbors, Monica Carpenter, said she supports affordable housing, but that this project presents a “real and present danger” because of the increased traffic that will result. Berry Street’s width is between 18 and 20 feet, much too narrow for 240 apartments, she said.

She and other neighbors could tolerate the project if it were scaled back to 50 to 80 apartments, she said.

“We will not be bullied,” said Carpenter, who was applauded after finishing her remarks.

Pat Lavery, of Campbell Road, which connects to Berry Street, said the area has a high water table. A previous plan to build 57 homes for people 55 and older on this site was opposed by the state because of the wet soil, he said.

As for Berry Street, he said, “Every spring, the potholes get larger and larger.”

Town Counsel Thomas Urbelis asked if the developer had done drainage calculations, a soil analysis and a plan for a fire suppression system. Regnante, who was accompanied by a landscape architect, an engineer, an architect and a wetlands scientist, said the developer’s team will complete those tasks.

“It is an ongoing process,” he noted.

Ellen McIntyre, who presided over the hearing because Chairman Albert Manzi III recused himself, said it will likely be six to eight months before the board is ready to vote on the project.

Because less than 10 percent of North Andover’s housing is considered affordable by the state, the town is subject to Chapter 40.

The percentage of local homes that are affordable is now 6.12 percent, Regnante said.