A zoning proposal coming to Town Meeting aims to put elderly housing development in west Andover in the fast lane.
The Senior Residential Community Overlay District, articles 26 and 27 on the warrant, seeks to turn 113 acres of land around the Franciscan Center on River Road into a privately developed, independent elderly living community.
The zoning pitch is the end product of about two years of work for the Franciscan Overlay Task Force. The volunteer committee developed the zoning after Wingate Healthcare, with an elderly housing facility on Andover Street, expressed interest in buying the land in 2011.
Wingate eventually withdrew its interest in the site, but the task force kept moving forward to see the zoning proposal through, according to task force Chairman Charlie Kendrick.
“The purpose of this article is to take the single-family district and put some features on it so there is some additional flexibility on it” for developers, he said.
The land already has a laundry list of allowable uses, including the following: residential zoning, multi-family dwellings, municipal or childcare facilities, and even things as specific as farm stands and keeping or boarding of horses, ponies, cows or other large domestic animals.
But as time has gone on, the site has housed only the Franciscan Center, used since its creation as a retreat by the Franciscans until recently. No other development opportunities have moved forward, according to Planning Director Paul Materazzo.
Meanwhile, “for the last 20 years, as part of the master plan for the town of Andover, they’ve been finding ways to make the town more accessible financially for the elderly population,” Kendrick said.
Therein lies the heart of the issue. For decades, stereotypes have supported the notion that elderly New Englanders migrate when they enter retirement.
In these economic times, that isn’t happening anymore, officials say. New England is getting older, yet the cost to live here is still getting higher, according to Mary Cormier, a member of the task force.