For the past few years, multi family housing has been a discussion in North Andover. Every time we turn around there are hundreds of units being built. Where are the small single family homes most residents would love to live in? Where are the affordable housing units? How many rental units do we need? The density and volume of these multi families are not necessarily about need or what's best for the town, it's about maximizing profit for developers.

Maybe, if we take a pause we can find a way to build affordable homes for our seniors, small single family homes for our children starting out and affordable housing that works for everyone.

Pause over-Development


The Proposal
Pause on permitting new mega complexes - e.g. Avalon on High Street and Princeton Properties at the former Forgetta Farm on Osgood Street - until the Town conducts a study to assess the impact on our community. The Royal Crest proposal would almost triple their housing!

Specifically:
Vote for a moratorium on the construction of multi-family dwellings consisting of three
or more dwelling units in any zoning district in the town for a period of two years;
Commission a study to assess the impact on our:
  • Schools,
  • Traffic,
  • Public safety (e.g. police and fire),
  • Water supply
  • Sewerage treatment and overflows
  • Other town services, and
  • Quality of life.
Why ask to slow down the construction of new mega complexes?
North Andover’s population percentage is growing at almost double the Commonwealth’s rate and 60% faster than Essex County.

Many residents have suggested the "housing crisis" in North Andover is we have built too much, too fast. Traffic throughout North Andover is terrible. In certain parts of town, during commuting hours cars line up in an unhealthy idling jam. It’s bad for our quality of life; it's bad for the environment.
North Andover has permitted the construction over 700 new units in large-scale complexes e.g. Berry Pond on Route 114 (196 units), Avalon Bay (170), Knights of Columbus (136), East Mill (51 additional) and Princeton Properties (192) and now there is a proposal for Royal Crest for (1,641) units to replace the existing 588 units.

What’s at Stake?
One of the things that contribute to our quality of life in North Andover is our historic rural character. We still have unprotected working farms, open meadows, and woodlands. Many are at risk. Do we want to see a mega complex at Barker Farm?

Other towns have done this…
In 2019, Saugus voted for a two year building moratorium. The reason? The Town was experiencing an unanticipated increase in the construction of multi-family dwellings and wanted to conduct an analysis and/or comprehensive study to determine the impact of that construction on police, fire, and emergency public safety, the school district, the water, sewer, and roadway infrastructures and the safety of the general public.
  • In 2017, Marlborough approved a moratorium in order to allow city officials to catalog the existing stock, gauge demand, and determine how more housing will effect city services, such as public safety, education and the water and sewer departments.
  • In 2020 Framingham, the City Council voted 10-1 Tuesday to enact a nine-month moratorium on the construction of new apartment buildings, with the option to extend the ban for three additional months.
This from an August 2, 2019 Boston Globe headlined “Too Much, Too Fast? Towns hit ‘pause’ on big projects”: “Like many cities and towns, there is a concern about growth and the ability to absorb that growth, whether it’s traffic, schools, or the infrastructure,’’ said Dedham Town Planner Jeremy Rosenberger.

Why we need to act at Town Meeting.
Town Meeting is a forum where townspeople can help direct, or redirect, the priorities of the Town. Our priorities may not include mega apartment complexes and the associated pressures on our schools, Town services, and traffic. Our priorities may include preserving why so many chose to live in North Andover.

Not long ago, the Town was considering, and may still be considering, a by-law to encourage more construction. The preamble to the by-law included the following goal: “…to encourage utilization [development] of the Town’s developable land”

Perhaps pausing to assess what all this construction means is a worthy pursuit.

WATER cONCERNS


From records obtained from the State, we are currently at 85% of our draw limit allowed from Lake Cochichewick.  Between the recently finished developments, those already permitted, and the additional water usage from the additional workers that will fill the Amazon facility and other businesses, we will exceed our draw limit in the VERY near future.

What then? The town's backup plan is to hook into Andover's water system at an increased cost. Andover has some of the most problematic water in the Merrimack Valley. Anyone who has spent time talking to Andover residents knows the horror stories of brown sludge flowing from their taps and appliances that only last half as long as the manufacturer rated. Andover also draws supplemental water from the Merrimack River below Lowell and sewage overflows would become a concern for North Andover residents during severe weather events. Have you heard anyone from the town mention this yet?

We need a plan in place for the infrastructure needed to handle growth, not just continuing to grow blindly. Vote Yes to Pause Over-development June 17, 6pm at the High School.


https://www.eagletribune.com/news/merrimack_valley/brown-water-continues-to-haunt-andover-homes......

https://www.andovertownsman.com/news/merrimack-river-continues.......

Town Meeting Importance


As we get ready for the Town Meeting, it’s good to have a refresher on how exactly our Town government operates.   Our Select Board and Committees are the executive branch of town government.  The executive branch carries out and enforces laws that the Legislative branch passes.

Town Meeting is the legislative branch of town government. Voters in Open Town Meetings have a great deal of power. They decide budgets, authorize spending of town money, create or amend zoning bylaws, create or amend by-laws, and offer elected officials a sense of the town's opinions, even on non-binding matters.

Town Meeting decides three major things:
  •  It sets the salaries for the elected officials.
  •  It votes to appropriate money to run the town; this is our entire Town budget.
  •  It votes on the town’s local statutes, which are called by-laws.
In our State the governor “proposes” a budget, and the State legislature parses through it and makes the decision.  In North Andover, we are the legislature. When items are proposed by citizens or recommended by the town, we have the opportunity to agree or disagree or even change it if we think it’s a bad idea. We do not have to follow any recommendations of the executive branch. In fact, town meeting exists to be a check on the power of our town’s executive branch. It’s easy to be in the habit of staying the course.  It’s also easy to provide new direction by voting!

The ONLY way to change the by-laws for the town, including zoning, is through Town Meeting. You will hear talk that some of the other high-density housing were brought to town meeting so there is no need for a moratorium. Many of those zoning items were changed years prior to a proposal in place such as Avalon and East Mill. Additionally, zoning by-laws are complicated, and the true ramifications are lost when a bunch of legal jargon is presented to Town Meeting.
Regardless of prior approvals, the legislative branch (YOU, if you attend Town Meeting) has authority to change the direction at any time; citizens can even call special town meetings.

The two-year pause provides time to complete studies, expand on existing ones and put a price tag on elements to plan for the future. The Town has admitted the water capacity and sewer capacity studies haven’t been done! They will now, because of this citizen petition. We want North Andover citizens to be the ones working on this study because we are the ones that have skin in the game, so there is no current need for an appropriation. Additionally, we are confident the Town Manager would fund particular areas of concern that needed some financial assistance or we can easily ask for an appropriation to another Town Meeting.
We can’t come up with a plan until there is a frank and open discussion on all the impacts, both positive and negative, of new housing.  This will not happen unless we take a pause to force the issue, and then come up with a plan for responsible future growth.


What's this Master Plan stuff?


I ask a group of people do you like apples or oranges better?
  • 60 answer apples
  • 40 answer oranges
Does this mean that no one likes bananas?

The Master Plan Advisory Committee, also known as Master Plan Steering Committee, formulated the questions and the presentation for the public to weigh in on.

This was an actual question.
  • Create a new base zoning district for the Downtown North Andover that is consistent with the goals of the Master Plan and encourages and incentives reinvestment?
People could choose: Agree, Somewhat Agree, Mixed Feelings, Somewhat Disagree, Disagree and write individual post it note comments.

The phrasing of the question sounds good doesn’t it? Sure, let’s agree. Does it mean develop a load of high-density housing all in one neighborhood in the matter of a few years? We didn’t take that course of action away from that question OR the Master Plan as a whole, so why is it being used to justify this new growth?

How many people realized these plans would now be presented as “blueprints” to justify rapid development in one area of town? Were there any price tags or pros and cons assigned to any of the wish list items?

Were you ever asked a direct up or down vote regarding housing? Even if you were, do you have a right to change your mind? This is why we vote every year on items because conditions change.

This is exactly why the Legislative Branch of our Town Government [Town Meeting] is the check and balance to the Executive Branch. This is why we have Town Meeting.


REuse comes with a heavy price


We need a harder look at housing goals and how to achieve them. Royal Crest has (108) three bedroom units.  Many families live or have raised their children there. The developer constantly refers to building luxury and high end, but are the current Royal Crest families going to be able to afford to rent there?  Even if they could, the plan is to significantly reduce the number of three bedroom units.

The plans called for (42) market rate which history shows the new rent will be much higher for those and only (10) affordable three bedroom units. So when people talk about reuse, they have to realize these are families who’ve made their homes here. The other developments are limiting bedroom count too. FIFTY SIX households will be displaced and no adequate replacement unit will be constructed for them to move into.

10 months of Select Board and Planning Board meetings and no focus that Royal Crest is one of our largest Environmental Justice areas, comprising a minority population greater than 25%. Again, the moratorium is about cumulative impacts and we can parse details on Royal Crest when that is brought to a future town meeting, but rehabbing an Environmental Justice area, throwing in a handful of affordable units, reducing bedroom count, adding high end retail and selling $750,000 townhomes meets most people's ideas of gentrification. Some people want to see Royal Crest redeveloped solely on its exterior appearance, want higher priced housing and have said that’s what happens when you rent. Sadly, there has been almost no discussion about the impact of bulldozing an entire Environmental Justice area.

With all of these prior plan approvals, it's about the income that will come into the town and not necessarily what’s needed in the town. When has the planning board or town simply said no, we’d like you to build this type of housing instead of what you propose or we won’t approve the plans?

The Master Plan mentions reuse but never discusses possible impacts.  The moratorium is about taking a pause to look at all aspects and impacts.  People will volunteer to work on these studies, and they live in town so they have skin in the game.  These working groups have been used for decades.  Not everything is about money.


Lost confidence


Whether it's deserved or not, most people in town do not feel the Planning Board represents their interests.  They see all the units being approved and everyone says it's according to the plans.  

Many of those plans were done under guidance of the Planning Board whose role is to develop the town. The Board may ask for minor modifications but the developers go into these meetings knowing the Planning Board will ultimately recommend favorable action.

The Planning Board approved: Princeton Properties (192 units), Knights of Columbus (136), East Mill (51 additional), Avalon (170), many of these had vocal opposition. It's now been made abundantly clear to everyone in town that the goal is to encourage and approve all growth, whether its multi-family, commercial or single family housing with little consideration if it is affordable, market rate or even luxury.

The Town has not examined the effects this influx of residents would have on administration costs. No one determined at what point we will need to hire additional help in the accounting office to help with excise and property taxes, or when we will need someone else at the DPW because of the increase in water bills, or when we will need to add more staff to handle all this permitting? Our town staff is already over stressed with workloads; there is a breakpoint for everything. Isn't that why the schools are in this situation now? If we don't know what our growth will be for the future, won't we be back in the same position again?

We know traffic is getting worse but where are those plans? They try to mitigate the impact but abutters and people who live on the main roads and the side streets are the ones impacted the most. Traffic is so bad that people worry about getting from school to school to make drop-offs.

The Select Board and Planning Board have even admitted all of those properties being developed were done without knowing when the town will exceed its draw allowance from Lake Cochichewick.  How much will Amazon and the expected increase in commercial businesses use?  How does increased demand affect algae blooms?  How much water storage do we have?  When do we need to increase operations and staffing at the plant?  How about sewerage, how does it impact the frequency and amount of raw sewage being released into the Merrimack River? Many more questions like these are important and haven’t been considered.  
All of the new developments in process and Amazon money will give us plenty of new income to make it two years. Then again, we may be right and someone will build affordable housing.

If we hit pause, we can come up with a plan that the vast majority will support. It happened with Osgood and it happened with The Stevens Estate. None were perfect but after there was a much higher consensus. Isn't that what we want as a community?

How to Help


We need help!  It looks like we need to order more signs and pay for printing presentations for Town Meeting.  

Please consider a donation so we can order more signs and materials.  Please email us at Pause@DevelopmentNA.com or you can Venmo us at @PauseDevelopmentNA

Link to Venmo Account

Blog


  •  2/27/2021 08:03 AM

Is our drinking water at risk? Our prized recreational area?

Read More
  •  2/25/2021 11:06 AM

North Andover Multi Family Pause

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  •  2/19/2021 05:50 PM

Do we really need more housing?

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