By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and a team of developers refused to let a torrential downpour stop them from touring the site of a proposed 240-unit apartment complex early last night.
Attorney Theodore Regnante, counsel for the developers, provided umbrellas and they all braved the elements.
North Andover Holdings LLC plans to build 240 apartments at the site of the former Berry Street Riding Academy. Sixty of the homes – 25 percent – would be set aside for tenants earning below-average incomes, so the proposed development qualifies as a Chapter 40B project.
Chapter 40B, the state’s so-called “anti-snob” zoning law, exempts affordable housing projects from local zoning regulations in communities where less than 10 percent of the homes are classified as lower-income. North Andover is below that 10 percent threshold.
The 27-acre site, on Berry Street near Route 114, is now occupied by five buildings, including two houses and a couple of barns that used to have horses. All five of the structures will be leveled to make way for five new buildings of 48 apartments each if the Zoning Board of Appeals approves the project.
Zoning Board of Appeals member Allan Cuscia asked how much the town receives each year in real estate taxes for the property. Eric Loth, manager of North Andover Holdings LLC, said it’s around $14,500.
If the project is approved and built, the annual tax bill will climb to roughly $450,000, Loth said.
Cuscia noted many people are concerned that such a large number of apartments will increase the number of students attending local schools, thus adding to the town’s costs. John O’Connor, one of the principals of the development firm, said the project might add only 20 students.
Many of the tenants, he said, will probably be young professionals who haven’t started their families yet or empty-nesters whose children have grown up.
The intersection of Berry Street with Route 114 will be reconfigured to make the entry to the highway safer, traffic engineer Ronald Desrosiers said. Berry Street will be moved several feet farther to the west and a number of trees will be removed. The section of the street near the highway will be widened from 20 to 24 feet, he said.
Zoning Board member Paul Koch asked if the planned buildings could be moved farther back from Berry Street. Cal Goldthwaite, project engineer, said that would cause the buildings to encroach on wetlands.
Loth said horses have not been on the site for 10 to 15 years. One of the horse barns is made with concrete. It replaced a barn that was destroyed by fire many years ago, resulting in the deaths of several horses, Loth explained.