Andover has a rare opportunity to give voters control of development of future Andover downtown, expand the tax base and receive state aid.
Since June, 2006, 10 voters appointed to a task force mandated by Town Meeting have participated with town officials, the town manager and directors of Planning, Plant and Public Works and a selectman, to prepare for the relocation of the town yard and eventual development of centrally located properties that lay between North Main and Railroad streets and the developed properties on Essex Street.
The two-plus acres occupied by the town yard are no longer sufficient to serve the needs of the town. Residents have soundly rejected proposals to locate separable portions of its operations to other Town properties in Andover.
After three years of searching, good fortune has made an ideal location available with an advantageous building at a net cost that will be lower than the cost to replace current facilities with new buildings at any location.
The redevelopment of the present Town Yard site in conjunction with adjacent properties, some already owned by the town, provides the opportunity to increase Andover's tax base significantly. A 2009 market analysis demonstrates there is a substantial market in Andover for new office space, one- and two-bedroom apartments, and certain retailing. Andover is under served by medical and health care services which is Massachusetts' fastest growing industry. Small apartments located near the railroad station will attract young professionals who will become Andover's next generation of homeowners. These apartments will also allow many Andover senior citizens to remain in Andover rather than move elsewhere, such as Peabody, Bedford or North Andover, as has been common in recent years.
The Legislature has facilitated town planning for future development with a "Smart Growth" law. Its 40R Overlay District provision makes it possible for towns to prescribe architectural and landscape design specifications. Also, it overcomes a flaw in the original Low Income Housing(LIH) statute that results in the need to replenish LIH stocks, and more important, provides subsidies to meet any new LIH requirements.
With the benefit of funds approved at the 2009 Town Meeting, the task force procured a market analysis via RGH Associates and retained the professional urban/suburban design and planning firm, The Cecil Group, to prepare overlay district specifications, and, the application to the Commonwealth for an Andover Smart Growth District.
The design developed by the Cecil group is based upon three public meetings in which design options were offered and attendees' preferences recorded. Incidentally, many attendees reside in the proposed district. Final design specifications were worked out with members of the task force whose experience includes architecture, property management, business management, engineering and law.
Town Meeting voters have the opportunity to put Andover in the driver's seat in place of a variety of independent developers, to determine the appearance of an exciting future section of our downtown area. In the weeks to come you will be learning the tax advantages and financial benefits to the Town that can derive from this long term planned development.
Town Yard Task Force member
16 Martingale Lane