By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The developer that wants to build 240 apartments on Berry Street near Route 114 has pledged to widen the rural road.
Neighbors have complained that Berry Street is too narrow and winding to handle the influx of new residents. North Andover Holdings LLC has filed to build the apartments under Chapter 40B, the state law that exempts developers from local zoning rules if 25 percent or more of the homes they plan to build are set aside for people who earn below-average incomes.
Sixty of the apartments under consideration will be deemed affordable.
Robert Michaud, a traffic consultant hired by the developer, showed plans for making the intersection of Berry Street and Route 114 safer at last night’s hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The end of Berry Street where the apartments are planned meets the highway at an angle.
Michaud’s plan would straighten the end of Berry Street so it would join Route 114 perpendicularly to improve visibility, he said. A raised island at the head of Berry Street would direct cars in a safer manner, he added.
The result would be a “vast improvement over what’s there today,” Michaud said.
Ellen McIntyre, who is presiding over the ZBA’s hearings on the 40B plan because Chairman Albert Manzi III recused himself, asked about obtaining a signal light for the intersection.
Michaud said he will talk to the state Department of Transportation about whether that can be accomplished.
Richard Mazzocchi, of 15 Stonewedge Circle, a leader of the Berry Street Neighborhood Association, said the project is “not appropriate for this site.” The neighborhood is currently made up of single-family homes, he noted.
Mazzocchi also spoke out against the 65-foot height of the five buildings that would be erected.
“This is more characteristic of an urban design,” he said. Mazzocchi said North Andover Holdings could reduce the number of apartments to 125 and still make a profit.
Kathleen Szyska, chairwoman of the Historical Commission, said she is “very concerned” about the old burial ground located on the site. She asked that the developer protect the cemetery, which she said includes graves of men who fought in the French and Indian, Revolutionary and Civil wars, with a 25-foot buffer zone.
Noting that much of the site will be paved for parking, she inquired, “Where’s all that water going to go?” She urged that low-maintenance shrubs be planted to help absorb water.
She also asked that public access to the cemetery be guaranteed.
Patrick Lavery, of 259 Campbell Road, said Route 114 already has the “highest volume of traffic in the Merrimack Valley,” with 29,000 vehicles using the highway every day. The “average wait” for getting on Route 114 from Berry Street is now two minutes, he said.
Eugene Sullivan, of 28 Stonewedge Circle, a civil engineer who has worked on 40B projects, said Berry Street should be widened to 24 feet, not 20 feet. He also said this project is “too large for the site.”
Monica Carpenter, who resides near the site, said the project poses “significant safety issues for neighbors.” She agreed with Sullivan that 20 feet is not a sufficient width for Berry Street and also said sidewalks should be built.
“We really do want to work collaboratively,” Eric Loth, manager of North Andover Holdings LLC, said at the end of the hearing. Loth and Mazzocchi spoke amicably after the hearing, with Loth indicating his willingness to hear neighbors’ concerns.
The hearing was continued until June 13, at which time the board will hear the developer’s plans for stormwater management and sewers.