Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 18, 2007

Wood estate could be restricted from development forever

Brian Messenger

The breathtaking landscapes once enjoyed by William Wood, the mastermind behind Shawsheen Village, could soon be preserved in perpetuity.

More than 50 acres of open space owned by the Wood family between Routes 133 and 28 will become undevelopable if a proposed restriction is passed in the coming months.

The legally binding proposal between the Wood family and The Trustees of Reservations, a Massachusetts charitable corporation, must be approved by Andover’s Conservation Commission, Board of Selectmen and the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Rosalyn Wood, the widow of Cornelius A. Wood Jr., William Wood’s grandson, has applied for the restriction with the Trustees of Reservations. Fifty-two acres of the family’s 66-acre property at 276 North Main St. would be protected forever, and it all would remain under the control of the Wood family.

The property, known as Arden, was the home of William Wood, who owned the American Woolen Co. during the height of Shawsheen Village. The area around Shawsheen Square was a self-contained industrial community Wood designed for the upper and middle managers of his company.

“Certainly, the bedrooms have magnificent views,” said Rosalyn Wood. “I know the benefit to the family is just the beauty of the place. As far as the town is concerned, they don’t have to worry about having a huge development on here and it’s impact on schools and what else.”

Several town officials this week described both the beauty of the 276 North Main St. property, which is assessed at $3,186,500, as well as the importance preventing widespread development in the area.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s like going into Vermont in the middle of Andover,” said Selectman Mary Lyman of Arden. “It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve this.”

“It’s a beautiful historic site,” said Conservation Director Bob Douglas. “It’s quite a process, but it will be of huge benefit to the town to keep it from turning into a mall or condos.”

On Tuesday night the Conservation Commission was expected to pass the conservation restriction proposal, according to Commissioner Howard Kassler. He also expected selectmen and the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary to do the same.

“There’s going to be no controversy on this,” said Kassler. “I can’t see why anybody would say ‘No’ on this.”

Peg Wheeler, a community conservation specialist with The Trustees of Reservations, was also optimistic and hoped to complete the restriction proposal by the end of the year.

“We think it’s a strong proposal because the property is in a historic district and because it’s such a significant piece of open space in Shawsheen Village,” said Wheeler.

The property has more than 842 feet of frontage along North Main Street (Route 28) and 475 feet along Lowell Street (Route 133).

Impact on development, flooding

Under the restriction, the Wood family would retain possession of the property and would be able to alter much of the land surrounding the existing buildings on Arden.

“The property’s going to stay in the family,” said Wood, who has lived on the property for 35 years. “We want to keep it as is. ... They dreaded the thought of anything coming in that would necessitate development, because the land has always meant a great deal to all the family.

“There’s enough land around each existing structure that does not fall under the restriction,” she said. “We’ve always wanted to save the land. It’s nothing new. The land is just too gorgeous to see developed. That’s it, that’s the bottom line. It’s also a benefit to the town to not see a development.”

The conservation restriction is expected to help preserve the historic character of Shawsheen Square while also preventing an increase in flooding from the Shawsheen River.

“It’s a sizeable piece of land,” said Wheeler. “In addition, I think one of it’s major points of significance is that it helps to control run-off into the Shawsheen River because it has a significant amount of wetlands on it.”

According to the restriction proposal, Arden contains 17.3 acres of wetlands, including a man-made pond, and 34.5 acres of fields and woodlands.

“That is a magnificent piece of property,” said Kassler. “I’ve driven down (Routes) 133 and 28 for 27 years never realizing what’s behind there. It’s a gem.”

Future development of the 276 North Main St. property would mean two things, according to Kassler.

“It would mean, No. 1, destroying a gem that’s been there forever, and after that it would mean what happens any time you develop a parcel: it’s always cheaper and better for a town to keep open space than to develop it,” he said. “No matter how high you tax, you don’t compensate enough for the services required.”

“It’s definitely preserving one of Andover’s finest properties, if not the finest,” said Lyman.