Residents cite problems with housing plans Andover residents fight housing plans
Discussions and concerns continue a year after a pair of affordable housing projects that could bring close to 500 rental units to Andover were introduced.
Originally, the project’s developers proposed building close to 600 units, but they have since modified their plans after taking into consideration comments and suggestions from town planning, conservation, and zoning officials, as well as residents. But at least one group of residents believes the modifications have not gone far enough to address concerns, or to make the projects worthwhile for Andover.
“The group is intending to fight it every step that we can,” said Tammey Kessel, one of the founders of Residents for Andover,which was formed in response to the two proposed projects.
Kessel and her group, however, are aware the fight may be difficult, given that both projects were filed under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law, which allows developers to circumvent certain local zoning restrictions and propose more densely populated projects as long as at least 20 to 25 percent of the units are designated as affordable. Communities with a housing stock that is less than 10 percent affordable have less flexibility in preventing the development of blocking 40B projects.
The state’s housing statistics for May found 9.3 percent of Andover’s housing stock qualified as affordable.
“As of right now, we’re under 10 percent, so we’re at the mercy of 40B developers coming into the community,” said Paul Materazzo, Andover’s planning director. “You really can’t say ‘no,’ unless there’s a health or safety reason why the development would be detrimental to the town. . . As far as the town, we do have a goal to provide for diverse housing options.”
Developer Yvon Cormier is proposing Andover Apartments at Rolling Green, a 224-unit complex that would replace the Rolling Green Golf Course on Lowell Street. The Hanover Co., a Houston-based developer with an office in Boston, has proposed the 248-unit Lodge at Andover, consisting of four four-story buildings on Shattuck Road. Both developers plan to designate 25 percent of the units as affordable.
Of most concern to the Residents for Andover group is the Rolling Green project, mainly because of the number of new students it is projected to bring into the district, particularly at the nearby Sanborn Elementary School. A project analysis estimates that the development would have 45 school-age children, but Kessel said she is skeptical of the figure.
She said the 192-unit Windsor Green apartment complex, a 40B development behind the golf course, has generated more students than originally projected, and she expects the same will happen with Rolling Green.
“We’re very concerned with the impact it will have on our school,” Kessel said. “We’re very concerned with the financial impact on the town.”
John W. Connery, the consultant who prepared the project analysis for both 40B proposals, said only 90 of the 224 proposed units at Rolling Green would have families with children, with the rest one-bedrooms.
“The 45 kids are not going to cause more light bulbs to go on, more heat to go on, or create more administrative positions,” Connery said. “The project is revenue-neutral. . . That amount of kids coming out of a project like that is really not going to impact the municipal budget.”
Paul P. Szymanski, the school district’s assistant superintendent for finance and administration, said administrators are aware that 40B projects like the ones proposed increase the student population, but there is little that can be done to prevent their construction.
Instead, the focus is on making preparations to accommodate them, he said.
In the case of the Rolling Green project, the school district suggested the developer build a sidewalk that students could use to walk to the Sanborn School, which is about a mile away.
A new sidewalk would not only eliminate the need to bus schoolchildren from the Rolling Green complex, but would also allow the school district to eliminate extra school buses it is now using to transport more than 40 students from the neighboring Windsor Green complex, Szymanski said.
“Our concern first and foremost is for the safe passage for our youngsters,” he said, adding administrators have been pleased with the discussions they’ve had with the developer. “We’re trying to work out something. If that happens, it will have a positive impact for both Orchard and Rolling Green.”
He said the school system didn’t have many concerns about the proposed Lodge project on Shattuck Road, other than it would be on a private road, preventing school buses from traveling there. Szymanski said the developer indicated sidewalks would be built for students.
Kessel said Residents for Andover plans to initiate fund-raising efforts, as well as continue to voice their concerns over impacts on the town’s finances, traffic, and environmental implications regarding wetlands, area flooding, and the loss of open recreational space.
“I’m not ready to assume that it’s going to go forward,” Kessel said. “I’m not opposed to affordable housing. It’s the impact on the town’s green resources we’re concerned about, the environmental impact, and financial impact on the town, and traffic is a huge, terrible disaster.”
The Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to continue discussions on the projects at 7 p.m. Aug. 8.