Editor, Townsman:

While I appreciate the concerns raised by The Townsman regarding the need for senior housing in Andover, I'm afraid your most recent editorial ("Seniors need a place to call home in Andover," Jan. 22) echoes arguments made by the town's Planning Department and other pro-development groups in that it appears to advocate for the construction of senior housing without making distinctions between the types of housing and the need for each type.

To recap what I and hundreds of citizens of this town have been trying to explain for months now: Assisted-living facilities are a form of short-term, for-profit, institutional lodging that is simply not needed in Andover. Even the numbers cited in your editorial support this fact. Although "one in six (Andover residents) are age 60-plus," you can walk into any assisted-living facility in and around Andover and find available units. Vacancy rates range as high as 25 percent, based on numbers provided to us by area facilities. Demographics do not equal demand.

Independent, 55-plus housing, on the other hand, is a form of long-term housing that is beneficial to our community and in huge demand.

With that distinction in mind, your editorial seems to make the following argument: Andover has a real need for additional 55-plus housing, so we should consider building assisted living-facilities. And although your editorial does not explicitly go this far, the implication is that, as long as procedural requirements are met, it's OK to build these huge, unnecessary facilities in residential areas of our town.

The overwhelming majority of people in Andover are not opposed to senior housing. We simply believe that, when considering our options, we should only approve proposals for development in residential areas if the proposed housing is actually needed and of a design and scale that will not harm the character of our neighborhoods.

To those who make the similarly odd argument that, because the town is not doing anything to bring additional 55-plus housing to town, we should build assisted-living facilities, I have good news: Sources at the Planning Department have told us that Pulte Homes New England's proposal to build more than 200 units of independent senior housing on the Franciscan property in our Senior Housing Overlay District will soon be before the Planning Board.

While this proposal should also undergo rigorous scrutiny, it offers a type of senior housing we need in an area of town that is specifically zoned for such a use.

Mark Bernardin

140 Elm St.


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