EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 28, 2012

Affordable housing project nearing approval

Construction would add 224 apartments to town

By Dustin Luca
dluca@eagletribune.com

---- — ANDOVER — An affordable housing project bringing 224 new apartments to Lowell Street is one meeting away from getting the biggest approval needed to move forward.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to approve the project with conditions at its next meeting, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 8 at 11 a.m.

The project, "Andover Apartments at Rolling Green," was first presented to the Zoning Board on Oct. 6, 2011. After continuing the project's public hearing 15 times since then, the board was slated to give it approval at a meeting Tuesday.

The need to clean up planning documents and tweak decision language pushed the hearing and a final decision out to one more meeting. With that meeting just over a week away, Mark Johnson, an attorney representing the project's developers, said he's glad it is on the precipice of Zoning Board approval.

"We're all happy. A lot of work has gone into this," Johnson said.

The project features 224 apartments distributed throughout two, four-story buildings, broken down into 134 one-bedroom units, 70 two-bedroom units and 20 three-bedroom units.

A total of 56 apartments will be "affordable units" restricted to household incomes that are at least 20 percent lower than the area median income.

The project will also have 182 parking spaces in garages underneath the two buildings and 195 outdoor parking spaces. It will be built on 20.1 acres of land.

Getting Zoning Board approval for the project has not been easy. Since it was first approved, meetings have addressed a variety of concerns, including traffic impacts, water and sewer needs, how the project would affect area schools and more.

The project was first presented alongside a competing 288-unit, four-building development on Shattuck Road. That project was rejected by the Zoning Board in September, and an appeal from the project's developer is expected.

On the road to approving Rolling Green, the Zoning Board's decision has built up 30 pages of conditions, findings and more to move the project forward with minimal local impact.

Addressing concerns, the project includes a three-acre, $110,000 storm water management system that will improve water quality for area residents. Nearly 27 acres of open land along Fish Brook will also be given to the town as part of the project's approval.

"It's being given to the town for no consideration," Johnson said. "It's something we offered to do as part of the approval process."

A new intersection with traffic lights will be built at the intersection of Lowell Street and the project's main entrance, at the existing Windsor Green entrance across the street from the IRS facility in Andover.

Several other requirements are outlined in the Zoning Board's decisions. Among them:

Construction will be limited to weekdays only, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Construction on Saturdays can be approved by the town's building inspector;

With one of the two buildings being built alongside Route 93, all apartments with windows facing the highway will need to be sound-proof; and

Developers will need to give the town $150,000 to fund "corridor planning and improvements on Lowell Street."

Before construction begins, other local and state permits will be needed. The Conservation Commission, which has worked with the Zoning Board throughout the process on area wetland concerns, will need to approve the construction of a new entrance onto Lowell Street, according to Johnson.

Because of the other permits needed to get a shovel in the ground, Johnson said he wasn't sure when construction would begin or how long it would take to build the two buildings.

"Whatever state permits we need we'll be working to obtain, and we will be filing a notice of intent for the construction of the entrance way with the Conservation Commission," Johnson said. "We're certainly happy to be working toward the conclusion of the public hearings."