Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

August 15, 2013

A tale of two towns divided

You could call it the great divide. Take a ride along Route 133 toward Tewksbury and it’s easy to see where one community ends and the next begins.

On the Andover side, life is altogether residential and rural. Neighborhoods spill off the main road. People settle here to raise their families in a truly suburban environment that still affords workday commuters the benefits and ease that come with being a stone’s throw from Interstates 495 and 93.

Right at the town line is the exclusive Jordyn Lane community. Built in the last 10 to 15 years, the well-appointed, million-dollar homes sit on sprawling lots with expertly crafted stone walls and lush, manicured lawns. Nestled into a landscape that still retains its wooded feel, the picturesque setting alongside the quaint Ames Pond is nothing if not bucolic.

Cross the line into Tewksbury and the scene is altogether different. To one side, a massive corporate center spills out across an expanse of land, while a luxury apartment complex blankets the hill overlooking Ames Pond. Continue onward and hotels, filling stations and chain restaurants, both sit-down and fast-food, line the corridor leading to the highways.

Herein lies the heart of the debate over a proposed $200 million, 1,250-slots casino.

From Tewksbury’s perspective, the targeted site on its side of town, at the rear of an already developed office park supporting large corporations, seems to make perfect sense. The Ames Pond Drive location is removed from much of the town’s residential sector. The area was especially designed to support commercial and business growth. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people can travel there daily without ever truly setting foot in Tewksbury or being seen by the majority of its townspeople.

It’s probably one of the factors that attracted Penn National Gaming to the site. But the company, which is no stranger to building full-scale gambling and racing-related facilities across the country, also undoubtedly saw a receptive partner in Tewksbury. The community has been struggling financially in recent years. Municipal services have been cut way back and Proposition 2 1/2 overrides are staring residents already struggling with high property tax bills in the face,

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