The purpose of the Town Yard zoning article coming to Town Meeting and concerns about existing site conditions at the Town Yard dominated discussion during the final selectmen forum.
Last Thursday, the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen hosted a community forum on a zoning article slated for an Annual Town Meeting vote in May. The proposal, if approved, would rezone the Town Yard on Lewis Street and land around it to allow for more development options.
Kenneth Buckland, principal with the Cecil Group, said the town has "an amazing opportunity here that many communities would be searching for, high and low."
The proposed Andover Transit Oriented Development District is made up of parcels inside and abutting a triangle-shaped area made up by North Main, Pearson and Railroad streets. Lewis Street, the present home of the Town Yard, sits at the center of the district.
For all land within the proposed district, current uses — as homes, businesses, the Town Yard — would remain intact. The zoning would create accessory uses that don't exist today for the land, such as a mixed use development that allows a blend of businesses and homes.
But last week's discussion focused closely on documented toxic conditions at the site, particularly in the soil underneath the Town Yard, and how the vote on the article would affect rebuilding or relocating the Town Yard.
The toxic conditions on the site have created "an activity-use limitation for the Town yard," Buckland said. "Because you have that liability, you have to maintain control. You have to be responsible for it."
Mary Lyman, the lone dissenting voice against the proposal among the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen, has frequently called attention to the site's conditions and its potential millions of dollars in cleanup costs.
"We own it forever. We own the price tag to that part of it," she said. "You think it's only in one spot. If, in 25 years, it's found in another spot, it's still the town of Andover (who is responsible). We're still going to clean that up."