The composting area and dog park at Bald Hill in the western part of Andover are both very popular and widely used by local residents – but they face a legal challenge.

They sit on conservation land and the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs decided last summer a composting area and dog park are not permitted uses there, according to Deputy Town Manager Michael Lindstrom.

The town acquired the 4.5-acre parcel in 1978 with financial help from the state. In 1990, state environmental officials told the town the site could be used for a composting operation, Lindstrom said.

Twenty-nine years later, however, “they changed their position,” he said. State officials determined that a composting operation is not permitted on conservation land.

Lindstrom, Town Counsel Thomas Urbelis and other officials have proposed a solution. They suggest giving 7.4 acres the town owns along the Shawsheen River to the Conservation Commission in exchange for the 4.5 acres on Bald Hill, located off High Plain Road.

Representatives of the stater Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs have visited the sites and like the plan, Lindstrom said.

This would permit the composting area and dog park to continue functioning at Bald Hill while the site along the Shawsheen, at 126 Tewksbury St., would become conservation land, Lindstrom said.

Lindstrom and Urbelis presented the plan to the Conservation Commission last week. No vote was taken at that time. The presentation was for discussion only. A vote may happen this week.

Conservation Director Robert Douglas said the site along the Shawsheen is “rich in wildlife.” The town acquired that land in 2006.

It was initially considered a possible location for athletic fields, according to Lindstrom, but officials eventually decided it was not suitable for sports.

Conservation Commission member Alexandra Driscoll said the swap seems like “a good idea.” Commission member Ellen Townson said it is important to “protect the river.”

The commission is expected to visit the 126 Tewksbury St. site.

Approval from the Conservation Commission will be just one step in the process, according to Lindstrom. To take effect, the swap will also need the approval of the Select Board and Town Meeting.

An enabling act from the Legislature will also be required, he said.

 

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