Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 3, 2013

Deadlines loom for busy Town Meeting

Voters expected to tackle zoning, project proposals

By Dustin Luca
Staff Writer

---- — Residents hoping to have an idea voted on by Town Meeting or a planned Special Town Meeting only have a week or two left to act.

The deadline to get on the warrant for a Feb. 11 Special Town Meeting is next Friday, Jan. 11, at 4:30 p.m. Residents hoping to get on the warrant must gather 100 signatures for their article before it can go before voters.

Only 10 signatures are needed to get on the Annual Town Meeting warrant. Two private articles are already collecting signatures for the April 29 meeting, though the deadline for submitting an article is now two weeks away — Jan. 18 at 4:30 p.m.

The Special Town Meeting, to be held at the Collins Center for the Performing Arts at Andover High School, will address a multi-million dollar budget gap facing the Bancroft Elementary School project. Two articles relating to the Cormier Youth Center are also expected. (See story, page 2)

TOWN MEETING TO FEATURE PROJECTS, PROPOSALS

Annual Town Meeting, usually running at least two days long, will feature a number of projects and proposals, according to officials.

At the very least, voters will face several capital project requests totaling around $10.5 million, including $2 million in land purchases, according to Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski.

An article proposing a zoning change for part of downtown Andover is also expected. Through it, residents will consider rezoning the existing Town Yard space on Lewis Street for some form of residential, commercial or mixed use zoning combining the two.

There are two request for proposals on the street for the town to buy land for a new Ballardvale Fire Station and Town Yard. Because all proposals must be returned prior to Town Meeting, any strong offers for either project could come before Town Meeting voters, Stapczynski said.

While locking up land for a new Town Yard is “probably not high on the list,” Stapczynski said the town will “have to see how that process goes.”

“There’s a remote possibility there could be a warrant article for the acquisition of a site,” he said. “Remote as it is, we are in the process.”

ELDERLY HOUSING PLAN POSSIBLE

The Town Yard zoning article isn’t the only zoning-related topic that could face Town Meeting voters. Residents may also hear from the Franciscan Housing Overlay District Task Force about a proposal to rezone the Franciscan Center on River Road to allow elderly housing there, according to Charles Kendrick, task force co-chairman.

A hearing for that project is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 8, on the third floor of Town Offices at 36 Bartlet St.

“What the overlay task force is doing is trying to get to the public an updated presentation on what the task force and the Planning Board are proposing to put up as a warrant article, to get the public feedback before we do it,” Kendrick said.

The proposal could lead to the 130-acre Franciscan Center property becoming elderly housing in the future.

“We’re quite far down the road. What we’re doing now is testing it,” Kendrick said. “There’s a whole lot of stakeholders in this effort, and we want to make sure that all the stakeholders see what we’re doing and have input in the process so that all the bases are covered.”

PRIVATE ARTICLES SEEK RESIDENTIAL SUPPORT

Petitions are circulating for two private Annual Town Meeting articles, according to Town Clerk Larry Murphy.

The first is a $635,000 request by some residents to build a 4,050-foot sidewalk along Highland Road. If approved, the sidewalk would run from the Highland Road intersection at Woodland Road to the North Andover town line at Downing Street.

The second effort asks for $60,000 to maintain a stream water level gauge for the Shawsheen River at Balmoral Street, near Shawsheen Square. The gauge, currently in place, helps provide early warning to nearby residents and businesses when the river reaches dangerously high water levels.

Murphy said that people with ideas for other issues that should be voted on at Town Meeting should speak to him soon. Anybody with an idea can start gathering signatures immediately.

“We encourage them to come in and talk about the process, but the papers are available on the town website,” Murphy said.

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For more information or questions about this story, email dluca@andovertownsman.com.