By Dustin Luca
---- — Annual Town Meeting voters will decide if the town should establish a zoning district to encourage senior-focused communities. Voters will be asked to buy land, including land for a riverwalk and ballfields, and to spend millions on building renovations.
Superintendent Marinel McGrath has also requested $225,000 to conduct a school-facility space needs study, as the town considers adding more high school and preschool space.
But there are two notable issues missing from the warrant. One item missing is an article to change the plan for building the Cormier Youth Center (see Town Talk, page 20), which needs a vote for the plan to go forward. There is also no article seeking money to complete the Bancroft Elementary School, which would be needed if Special Town Meeting in February does not approve money for the construction project. Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski said he will ask selectmen to reopen the warrant to insert these articles.
Three private, resident-driven articles are also on the warrant: one to transfer land between the town and property owners on High Plain Road, one to raise $60,000 to fund a “streamgaging station” on the Shawsheen River to give an early warning of flooding, and one to raise $500,000 to update and renovate the existing Ballardvale Fire Station at the corner of Clark Road and Andover Street rather than replace it.
This year’s Annual Town Meeting will be held at the high school’s Collins Field House beginning Monday, April 29 at 7 p.m. Residents not already registered to particiate in the meeting can register at the town clerk’s office at the Town Offices on Bartlet Street.
ZONING PROPOSALS WILL MARK MEETING
Residents will be asked to vote on several potential zoning changes.
One such proposal is the creation of an “ID2” district. The plan will create additional uses for developers seeking to build on land near the town’s two Interstate 93 interchanges off Dascomb and River roads.
As officials develop their plans for building a new Town Yard, they have determined that moving it away from its current home on Lewis Street is necessary. Considering what will happen to the Town Yard space once the municipal services facility relocates, the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen are presenting their proposal: rezoning the current Town Yard land for mixed commercial and residential use, effectively extending downtown Andover.
A plan is also coming to the floor to create zoning that would usher in a new senior-focused residential community off River Road, in the north-west corner of Andover. That district, the Senior Residential Community Overlay District, will rezone around 90 acres of land around the currently vacant Franciscan Center to allow for “flexibility in the development f parcels for housing and related services for persons 62 or older,” the article reads.
Two other articles seek to modify existing zoning to allow for larger letter heights on outdoor business fixtures and to change the definition of retail sales establishments and fast food restaurants.
REICHHOLD PURCHASE READY FOR PRIME TIME
Meanwhile, two articles are coming from the Conservation Commission to buy around 13 acres of land off Lowell Junction Road.
The land is the final piece of Reichhold property for the town to purchase. It has not been acquired yet by the town because of historical contamination issues that needed to be addressed. The town already owns the rest of the property.
It was set to be purchased once before, but contamination issues stopped the acquisition pending remediation. Since then, “the site has undergone a multi-million dollar restoration and is now being reviewed as being clean and ready for use,” Conservation Director Bob Douglas said.
One article will apply for a conservation Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity grant to help deflect some of the land’s cost. That grant, estimated to be around $200,000, will focus on two of the 13 acres along the Shawsheen River, according to Douglas.
The goal is to make a riverwalk out of the land, Douglas said.
The remaining 11 acres will cost up to $550,000 and the town will apply for a Park Acquisitions and Renovations for Community grant that is for land will be used for “active recreation, which is to say ball fields,” Douglas said.
The town has already approved $1.2 million during a prior Town Meeting vote to buy the land. The $550,000 will join that, and reflects a final purchase price that “would be sufficient for us to purchase the property,” Douglas said.
SCHOOLS, TOWN BUILDINGS SEE WORK PITCHES
The town’s Plant and Facilities department has brought a number of articles, with requests ranging from restoring the high school’s tennis courts to putting the finishing touches on the World War I Memorial Auditorium by Town Offices and the Park.
The biggest among them is a $3.2 million plan to repave parking lots and sidewalks around Doherty Middle School ahead of the possible construction of the Cormier Youth Center behind the school.
A $1 million article will also seek to seal exterior masonry at High Plain Elementary and Wood Hill Middle schools, perform security upgrades at Andover schools, construct a loading dock at Andover High School and more.
A $330,000 request from acting Plant and Facilities Director Maria Maggio seeks to finish several years of work at the World War I Memorial Auditorium at Doherty Middle School.
The work, which comes at the end of years of renovation work both inside and outside, will “add an elevator for handicapped access and put in a new (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system in there,” Maggio said. “Part of it is also looking at the copy center and the records area, which is kind of between the Town Offices.”