ANDOVER — A plan to attract restaurants, retail and other amenities to an active business, professional and industrial sector on the outskirts of Andover has cleared a major hurdle.
Town Meeting wrapped up Wednesday night with a vote to create an "ID2" zoning district along two of the town's Route 93 interchanges on Dascomb and River roads.
By doing so, town officials hope to encourage the growth of businesses to cater to the thousands of employees based in the area, including at major corporations such as HP, Philips Electronics and Schneider Electric as well as Greater Lawrence Technical High School and Massachusetts College of Law.
Many supporting the three ID2 articles on the warrant said adding amenities such as grocery stores and restaurants would gives businesses more opportunity to attract workers — and possibly even draw larger companies to town.
"If we were making a campus decision as a company, Andover would not be on that list (of towns to go to) based upon the skills that we need," said Greg Sebasky, representing Philips Electronics on Minuteman Road. "Andover is becoming uncompetitive in commercial growth."
But others like Dascomb Road resident Dolores Cleland argued against the change, saying there are already plenty of restaurants and service business in the area, as well as a gas station and car wash.
"Are we going to have duplications of these?" she asked.
Catherine Burton of River Road argued that the new district "will absolutely change the character of our town. I don't think anyone wants Andover's gateways to look like Woburn, Tewksbury or even Westford."
"There are houses directly across the street from this property," she said. "Tonight, they look out at a lawn. Tomorrow? They might look at a Dumpster for Cumberland Farms."
But Peter Caruso, president of the Andover Business Community Association, said his organization supported the effort, even though most of its membership is based miles away in downtown.
"It will keep the people who work in these businesses in Andover," he said. "We have them now. Let's keep them."
Also last night, Town Meeting voted to buy conservation land along Lowell Junction Road for $550,000 and OK'd a private citizens' request to raise $60,000 for a stream gauging station along Shawsheen River.
The only article that failed to win voters' favor was an $18,000 request for a downtown parking study. It fell 17 votes shy, with a vote of 109 to 126, after some residents argued against having taxpayers foot the bill.
Town Meeting floor also got heated over the proposed purchase of what's known as the Reichhold land along Lowell Junction Road. But voters ultimately supported a $550,000 appropriation toward the purchase and a land grant application to fund some of that cost. The decision brings to closure a process started more than two decades ago, Town Manager Reginald "Buzz" Stapczynski said.
Some residents, however, weren't happy with the end result.
Lovejoy Road resident Fred Livingstone asked selectmen, "How do you justify recommending the town spend another half a million dollars to purchase even more land, while only making token gestures to deal with the town's unfunded liabilities that are in the hundreds of millions of dollars?"
Cherrywood Circle resident Bob Pokress of the fiscal watchdog website townofandover.com echoed Livingston's concerns.
"The town manager made a point on a number of occasions, making reference to a previous authorization 12 years ago," Pokress said. "None of us knew we'd be looking down the barrel at millions of dollars of unfunded liabilities" when finishing off the purchases.
The final heated issue to hit the floor was that of a $60,000 stream gauge to be added to the Shawsheen River by Shawsheen Square. A previous river level-measuring device was taken out of commission last year due to a federal sequester.
While the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee both opposed the purchase, Town Meeting voters gave their approval.
Washington Park Drive resident Edward Medeiros, whose property flooded during the 2006 Mother's Day storm, said town officials at the time could have better warned residents who suffered damage. The new gauge will better protect residents along the river, he said.
"In 2006, the town knew we were going to have a flood," he said. "They didn't relay this to the population and businesses in the area that would be affected by this, and they woke up on Mother's Day morning to find their cars were under water."
ANDOVER TOWN MEETING, NIGHT THREE RESULTS
A39: Off-street parking program. PASSED
A40: Spring Grove Cemetery maintenance. PASSED
A41: Major water main replacement. PASSED
A42: Water distribution maintenance. PASSED
A43: Water Treatment Plant parking and site work. WITHDRAWN
A44: Water and sewer vehicles. PASSED
A45: Water distribution flushing program. PASSED
A46: Fire hydrant infrastructure maintenance. PASSED
A47: Valance of awnings zoning. PASSED
A48: Downtown parking management action plan. FAILED
A49: WW1 Memorial Auditorium renovations. WITHDRAWN
A50: ID2 zoning district, regulations. PASSED
A51: ID2 zoning district, Dascomb Road zoning map. PASSED
A52: ID2 zoning district, River Road zoning map. PASSED
A53: Reichhold parcel purchase. PASSED
A54: Reichhold parcel grant. PASSED
A55: Overlay Surplus Transfer for tax abatement. WITHDRAWN
A56: Overlay Surplus Transfer for property revaluation. PASSED
A57: Definition of retail sales establishments. PASSED
A58: High Plain Road land transfer. PASSED
A59: Watershed Protection Overlay District zoning. PASSED
A60: Steam-gauging station on Shawsheen River. PASSED
A61: Crystal Circle street acceptance. PASSED