The developer of Andover's latest proposed affordable housing project is meeting with neighbors face-to-face to discuss their concerns about lost green space, school overcrowding and traffic conjestion.
About 25 people aired their issues Oct. 2, as Todd Wacome, developer of the Taylor Cove affordable housing project, hosted a forum for neighbors and abutters to his 12-acre parcel in Ballardvale.
Under the business name Taylor Cove Development, Wacome has applied to build 32 three-bedroom townhouses on 12.09 acres at 86 River St., in the southern section of Andover. One-quarter of the units — eight condos — would be affordable housing units.
Wacome told residents he is a second-generation builder, and lives in Ballardvale with his family. He organized the meeting, he said, to involve neighbors in the project and get feedback outside the structured forum of a ZBA meeting.
"We want to hear from you. We want to be able to fill in some of the blanks (in the project)," said his attorney, Don Borenstein. "We think what we've proposed here is an appropriate development for the property ... We're looking for your input. You folks live there, you go there every day."
Later, the conversation became heated on the topic of traffic, and people would jump in with comments, often talking over each other.
Several attendees noted that Wacome's meeting coincided with a parent open house at South Elementary School, where most of the neighborhood's children attend, so several families with younger children weren't able to come.
South School is overcrowded, said attendees, and building 32 condos — many of which would house children — would only exaggerate the issue.
Attendees also raised concerns about the project's environmental impact: Of Taylor Cove's 12 acres, 1.14 acres are wetlands and the area is close to the Shawsheen River. They requested a sidewalk between 53 and 83 River St., which currently has no shoulder or sidewalk, and is dangerous for pedestrians.
Folks raised concerns about the project's overall change in the area's character, which is home to forest, numerous species of animals and riverine landscape.
Taylor Cove would cluster the 32 townhouses in a mix of two and three-unit buildings, centered around a cul-de-sac off River Street. Each would have three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and an attached two-car garage, totaling 2,085 square feet, and would rise two and a half stories tall. The market rate condominiums would be estimated to sell at just under $500,000, said Borenstein.
The affordable units would be indistinguishable from the exterior from the market rate units, said Borenstien, and would be dispersed throughout the development and not congregated. The affordable homes would be priced at a level affordable for moderate income buyers (with annual incomes of approximately $55,000 to $60,000), he said.
State law Chapter 40B makes it easier for developers to skirt certain zoning laws if they create affordable housing developments in communities that have less than 10-percent affordable housing. Andover currently has less than 10 percent, said Lisa Schwarz, senior planner for the town.
After the two hours, it was decided that another informal forum should be hosted, said Borenstein, to cover several additional topics.
The project is undergoing public hearings with the Zoning Board of Appeals. The next ZBA public hearing is Oct. 21, 7 p.m., in the meeting room at Andover's Public Safety Center, 32 North Main St.