Neighbors oppose plan for apartments

AMANDA SABGA/Staff photoThe view from Kim Pass' High Street, North Andover home. Pass is one of many neighbors opposing a building project proposed in the now-empty lot. It would consist of two five-story buildings totaling 250 units with more than 400 parking spaces. 

NORTH ANDOVER — Kim Pass can think of any number of uses for the empty lot she overlooks from the back deck of her High Street home: A park, playground, green space, or to leave the paved lot that kids ride their bikes and learn to drive on.

But Avalon Bay, a national developer with 41 established communities spread across Massachusetts, has other plans. They filed an application at North Andover Town Hall earlier this year to build two, five-story residential buildings to house a total of 250 units.

Avalon Bay is proposing a mix of studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, along with more than 400 parking spaces and on-site amenities: A pool, gym, outdoor fireplace and lounge areas.

Around 200 neighbors and nearby residents, including Pass, are rallying against the project, before the Planning Board hears it on July 9.

“My kids like to be outside; my kids and all the kids in the neighborhood,” Pass said. “It’s a little treacherous now with the current traffic speed and volumes. If you add in construction in and out and, if it opens, all those people who would move in, that’s a lot of extra traffic.”

A sign at the entrance to the neighborhood warns "Slow down, we love our children," but isn't always obeyed, Pass said.

"There are kids up and down High Street," she said. "If you have kids moving in, it's going to add a whole other element to the schools, too. The schools are already at capacity."

The Avalon Bay project would build off of the East and West Mills, a combination of residential and commercial spaces spanning 500,000 square feet of renovated brick and beam space.

Another neighbor, Betsy Cote, has spent most of her life living on High Street. She has seen the neighborhood “go up” in terms of development. Taxes have followed the same trend, she said.

“This (Avalon Bay) project would be 20 feet from the end of my property line,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to see sunrise or sunset anymore."

Community members have organized the group called “Neighbors Against Avalon Bay High Street Project,” with a presence on Facebook and plans to attend town meetings regarding the project proposal.

“It’s just a residential area,” Cote said. “People do not want this to happen in our neighborhood.”

Avalon Bay, in their application materials, tout the project as a source of additional tax revenue and to build upon the success of the East and West Mills. On-site management and maintenance is mentioned in the proposal.