NORTH ANDOVER — Dozens of residents of High Street and Sutton Pond Condominiums voiced opposition Tuesday evening to AvalonBay Communities' plan to construct 250 apartments.
Because of the large crowd, estimated to be at least 100, the Planning Board held the hearing at the Senior Center rather than the selectmen's meeting room at Town Hall.
AvalonBay proposes erecting two five-story buildings on a 9.4-acre site between High Street and Sutton Pond Condominiums. The area includes a large parking lot used by the nearby West Mill commercial building and a baseball field.
RCG, proprietor of the West Mill, owns the site but has an agreement to sell it to AvalonBay if the apartments are approved. The Planning Board is actually considering two applications regarding the project.
RCG is seeking approval to subdivide its property into three lots. The apartment buildings would be built on one lot while another would be used for parking.
The third lot would be retained by RCG. AvalonBay, which owns 85,000 apartments nationwide and 11,000 in Massachusetts, has applied for a special permit to build the 250 housing units.
John Finnimore of 90 High St., whose property is within 50 feet of one of the proposed apartment buildings, noted there is strong opposition to the project. More than 1,200 residents have signed a petition opposing the apartments, he said.
"The opposition to this is wide and deep," he said, as fellow neighbors applauded. He said his section of North Andover is already congested with about 600 apartments that have been built or are under construction.
The town's master plan includes 103 "strategies," he said, but "none of it says we should have more apartments." The town, he said, has an obligation to "protect the neighborhoods."
Diane Montella, a resident of Sutton Pond Condominiums, asked the Planning Board if approval of the project is a "done deal."
Chairman Eitan Goldberg said that is not the case. The board will review all aspects of the proposal and determine whether it complies with the law governing subdivisions, he said.
Montella, along with others, pointed out that residents of Sutton Pond Condominiums have only one egress: a private road that runs between the condos and High Street.
That road would also be the only egress for those living in the proposed 250 apartments.
"That math is not good for the quality of life in North Andover," she said.
Christopher Barker of 181 High St. asked, "What is the anticipated number of residents?"
David Gillespie, vice president of development for AvalonBay, said it's 411.
In his presentation to the Planning Board, Gillespie described the apartments as "very high end." One of the buildings would have a swimming pool, fitness center and an outdoor fireplace for residents.
The two buildings, he pointed out, would provide additional real estate tax revenue to the town. Several acres of open space would be retained, he added.
Planning Board member Aaron Preston asked what other options were considered for the property.
David Steinberg of RCG said his company's original vision was to develop the West Mill property for commercial uses. He had discussions with many companies before deciding to work out an arrangement with AvalonBay, he said.
Goldberg said the board would not be voting on the proposal that evening. The hearing was continued until July 16, at which time Assistant Superintendent James Mealey is expected to talk about the impact the apartments would have on the schools.
Residents of High Street have frequently complained about traffic congestion in their neighborhood. The engineer who did a traffic study of the area will present his findings July 30, according to Goldberg.