---- — To the editor:
As a member of the Berry Street Neighborhood Association (BSNA), who has participated in a 14-month-long struggle against a 40B rental development proposed for the old Riding Academy/Flower Farm on Berry Street, it strikes me that town residents do not yet fully understand the potential impact outside our immediate area.
There is a reason the BSNA has worked so hard to force changes to the 240 rental unit/450 car project that originally was proposed. This segment of Route 114 has become the little darling of Mass Housing, and for those readers who believe that this project will significantly advance North Andover to the 10 percent affordable housing required by this law, it won’t. We are only at 6.5 percent as defined by current State standards and the 195 units currently proposed are not going to take us to the finish line on this issue. While potentially ruining what used to be a lovely and historic property, spoiling the quiet character of a neighborhood, adding to congestion on Route 114, and opening the door to potentially devastating traffic accidents on Berry, Ash and Campbell roads, this is just the beginning for these oversized developments on this state route in North Andover.
The law is also intentionally written to obstruct those of us concerned about the demand placed on our schools from voicing them at public hearings. However, residents should at least be advised of the costs of these developments. Windsor Green, a similarly sized complex of 191 apartments in Andover, is a good example of what actually happens. When it was built, the taxes drawn from this development only covered the costs of educating an additional 20 students. In actuality it added 88 students to the school system leaving an annual $900,000 school budget deficit that ultimately was paid for with a tax increase.
Our entire town must engage in controlling the consequences of this poorly written 50 year-old law. Similarly to Stoneham, we need to press for a town vote to allocate significant funds to provide fully committed legal assistance to current tax paying residents in order to combat the legal teams who regularly represent 40B developers in their endeavors.
What else can we do? Last month, town officials Rosemary Smedile, Curt Bellivance, and Andrew Maylor, testified along with Rep. Jim Lyons to a committee at the Statehouse to press for changes to the 40B law that would at least allow for all currently approved units to be counted toward the sum total of affordable housing in our town. There are other parts of North Andover, such as the Lucent area, that could be revitalized in a positive way by a mixed-use redevelopment that includes a significant number of affordable housing units, offices, and retail space in an area that can better support increases in traffic volume.
This is not a problem restricted to the BSNA’s “ little corner of town”. This type of unchecked development has the potential to negatively impact residents throughout North Andover, and readers should be advised that other quiet residential neighborhoods like ours are in no way protected.
Those of us at the BSNA encourage you to voice your concerns about overdevelopment and traffic safety by either calling or writing to our town selectmen, the ZBA, and our state representatives. All contact information may be found on the BSNA website (www.berrystreetna.org) as well as the town of North Andover website. Finally, please share this personal statement with friends and neighbors throughout our area.
The town needs to hear from more of us prior to the next ZBA hearing scheduled at the Town Hall on Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m.