EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 12, 2013

Group asks to build veterans homes on High Street in North Andover

By Paul Tennant
ptennant@eagletribune.com

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Despite fighting for their homeland, veterans frequently don’t have a home to call their own when they return from overseas duty.

Veterans’ Services Officer Edgar Mitchell told the Community Preservation Committee last night that he was working with a veteran who was living in his car. Mitchell said he was able to get a home for the veteran until a local landlord stepped forward.

Mitchell said there are now 14 North Andover veterans who need housing. It is for that reason Mitchell and other members of the Veterans Housing Task Force propose to buy a vacant, rundown two-family house at 138 High St. and transform it into two homes for people who have served in the military and their families.

They also hope to erect another building on the three-quarters-of-an-acre site that would have three apartments for veterans. Mitchell, John Ratka, executive director of the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, and other task force members appeared before the Community Preservation Committee last night to request $391,000 for the project.

The committee is charged with recommending how the town should spend the proceeds of the 3 percent community preservation surtax residents pay on top of their real estate taxes. Town Meeting has the final word.

Several neighbors of the proposed veterans housing expressed concerns about the project, but Ratka spoke with them after the meeting and said he will answer their questions. Mitchell said the project “is going to improve a distressed property.”

Ratka, whose organization has built many homes for veterans in Haverhill, said the renovated structure will be “something that enhances the neighborhood.” Daniel Lanen, a task force member, said the proposal is compatible with the High Street neighborhood, which has many multifamily houses, he noted.

Several neighbors said they were most bothered by the plan to build another house on the property.

Leonard Provost, of 157 High St., said he worries about added congestion in the area.

“I just don’t think it fits in the neighborhood,” he said.

Dan Drover, of 126 High St., said parking in the neighborhood is very limited. Drover said he is not against renovating the two-family house that’s already there, but will oppose the construction of a three-family structure on the site.

If the project wins approval, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center will own and manage the property. Terry Holland, a member of the Community Preservation Committee, said he has visited some of the homes the organization manages in Haverhill and was impressed by their “immaculate appearance.”

The Community Preservation Committee did not act on the Veterans Housing Task Force’s proposal last night. The committee will vote on recommendations on how to spend the community preservation money before the May 21 annual Town Meeting.