EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 24, 2013

Veterans' housing, athletic fields upgrade win approval; Foster Street land purchase tabled

By Paul Tennant
ptennant@eagletribune.com

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — North Andover will likely have fewer homeless veterans as a result of Town Meeting’s action Tuesday night.

Voters approved nearly $2.5 million in spending from the town’s Community Preservation Fund, including $461,894 that will go toward building homes for three veterans at 138 High St. The site is now occupied by a house that’s in foreclosure.

Veterans Services Officer Ed Mitchell recently said 14 North Andover veterans need places to live.

Other Community Preservation projects approved were:

- Preservation of Second Burying Ground – $30,000

- McEvoy Field refurbishment – $903.350

- Construction of playing fields at Town Farm – $300,000

- Renovations at North Andover Historical Society’s Parson Barnard House and Johnson Cottage – $397,000

- Replacing Stevens Estate roof – $436,950

- Renovations at Scholfield Mill, where North Andover Thrift Shop is located – $130,000

- Getting Ridgewood Cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places – $30,000

- administrative costs – $30,000

The Community Preservation Committee initially recommended $500,000 be set aside to purchase 8 acres off Foster Street so the land could be preserved as open space, but ultimately decided against putting the proposal before Town Meeting. Earlier this month, Selectman Tracy Watson and other members of her board questioned whether the purchase would benefit the town.

“The committee is very pleased,” said Ted Tripp, chairman of the North Andover Veterans’ Housing Task Force, which advocated the 138 High St. project before the Community Preservation Committee and the Board of Selectmen. Tripp said he and other task force members appreciated the help they received from the assessors, Building and Community Development departments, Town Manager Andrew Maylor and the selectmen, who voted to recommend the project at Town Meeting.

When the task force was formed last year, members were not sure how to go about providing housing for veterans, Tripp said. They received much guidance from the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center of Haverhill, which will manage the 138 High St. homes, he noted.

Tripp said he and other task force members agreed that their “best bet” would be to finance the project with North Andover money. This will enable them to restrict the homes to North Andover veterans only, he explained.

“We’re on the home stretch,” Tripp said, but there’s still much work to be done before the veterans can move in, he pointed out. The task force needs to decide whether to demolish the house that’s now on the site and start anew; or renovate the current structure.

Tripp said they are looking for an architect or engineer who would be willing to do the design work pro bono or for a very low cost. The housing for veterans and other Community Preservation projects are financed by the 3 percent surcharge on local real estate tax bills.

The Community Preservation Fund also receives money from the state. The fund can pay for the purchase of open space, historic preservation and affordable housing.

North Andover voted to accept the Community Preservation Act in 2001. It was one of the first communities in Massachusetts to do so.