NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack College’s plans to build new dorms caused a discussion about traffic concerns at last night’s Planning Board meeting.
The college wants to build four new dormitories and a student community center on Austin Field — a lush, tree-lined lot to the right of the college’s entrance on Elm Street in Andover. Three of the proposed buildings would be located in Andover and two in North Andover, with the community center in the middle.
The new dorms will house an additional 350 students. The community center will include a living room, fitness center and some offices.
While last night’s discussion was brief, there was some concern over how the new dorms would impact traffic. The college does not plan to build a new parking lot.
“We are really encouraging students to live on campus and not bring their cars,” said Felipe Schwarz, assistant vice president of external affairs for the college.
“Three hundred and fifty new students and not a single parking space?” Board member Lynne Rudnicki asked. “How are you encouraging them not to bring cars?”
Schwarz said there is a lottery system that allows only a small number of students to bring cars onto campus.
“I don’t find it unusual to not add parking spots,’’ board member Lora McSherry said. “The idea is for it not to be commuter school.”
No neighbors of the college attended last night’s meeting. However, the college’s plans have caused some debate among neighbors.
On June 12, college officials presented plans to develop land for housing and a student commons space, which prompted opponents to organize and circulate a petition against the project. The Coalition for Merrimack College Smart Growth was also formed and they have almost 100 likes on a Facebook page protesting the dorms.
The college plans to address neighbors’ concerns in a series of meetings starting tomorrow.
Rudnicki said she wants to make sure the meeting is open to residents of both North Andover and Andover.
The Planning Poard will have a public hearing on the dorms in August.
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