By Dustin Luca
---- — With the vision for the Town Yard almost complete and a plan to rezone the current area getting some finishing touches, the Board of Selectmen are one step away from allowing public scrutiny and discussion at its meetings.
Since Town Meeting voters rejected a task force-created plan at 2012 Annual Town Meeting by 31 votes, the board has taken over the project. With officials focusing on building a new Town Yard somewhere other than Lewis Street, the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board have been developing a zoning proposal to re-purpose the existing Town Yard site.
That proposal is expected to hit Town Meeting in April.
The plan would allow for developers to pitch projects within a newly created Andover Transit Oriented Development District (ATODD). The district targets what many have referred to as “the Golden Triangle,” a triangle of land formed by North Main, Pearson and Railroad streets on the edge of downtown Andover. The present Town Yard sits in the center of that triangle.
The ATODD permit, issued as a special permit by the Planning Board, would control the size, congestion, scope and other aspects of projects seeking to build around and within the existing Town Yard site.
“What can happen is these design guidelines become more flexible,” said Kenneth Buckland, principal of the Cecil Group and a designer on the project, at a recent meeting. “They don’t become something that can stop a project. What we want them to do is encourage good design and look for good design.”
The proposed zoning district allows for buildings to reach heights based on the building’s starting elevation, which drops the further back you go down Lewis Street. Land towards the rear of the street, which slopes downward from North Main, would support taller buildings.
As part of the permit, developers must also present plans detailing how well the development would perform under tight congestion.
“The parking, the loading, the traffic, the pedestrian circulation, the egress points, the circulation outside of the property as well as the interior to the property, are all addressed in the plan,” Buckland said.
The proposal will also set the minimum size of a development. Discussion of the size started last Monday at two acres, meaning anything under that wouldn’t be eligible for a permit. Officials expressed interest in reducing that requirement, however.
“There are a million different ways you can break (the land) up,” said Lelani Loder, member of the Planning Board. “If the town elected to sell just an acre of the three total to some of the abutters and a developer was to approach... I mean, there are just a ton of different scenarios you can create.”
THE TIME FOR INPUT IS COMING
The two boards have also established two dates for public hearings on the proposal, marking the first time the Board of Selectmen will allow members of the public to speak on the project since they took over the discussions.
To this point, work on the Town Yard has been conducted within a workshop environment, which the board established since day one would not permit public feedback despite being in an open meeting format.
Those ground rules have frequently faced opposition from Cyr Circle resident Mary Carbone, who restated her opposition to them Monday night.
“We’ve been having work sessions for quite some time,” Selectmen Chairman Paul Salafia said. “I’ve been promising that we’d have some public meetings.”
The two boards will meet at Memorial Hall Library on Thursday, Feb. 7 and Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. specifically to hear public feedback on the plans. A third meeting of Monday, Feb. 25 has also been established if necessary.
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