North Andover Turbocharges Overpopulating the Town ~ PAYING ATTENTION with TOM DUGGAN

In the old days a Mafia don would show up at your restaurant and say, “Hey nice place you have here. We’d like to give you some money for a piece of this business, and at some time in the future we’ll be back to ask a favor, and you’re gonna do that favor for us… right?” Of course, if you said no, you were never heard from again.

Today, it’s not the mafia pretending to invest in your future for a favor to be named later, it’s the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which has enacted a new law called the MBTA Community Act.

This act strong arms local communities to build multi-family housing units by overriding zoning requirements (that is, allowing “as of right” construction); not requiring construction of affordable units; bypassing elements of local Town Meetings; and other local requirements.

In essence, the state is now determining how, when, and where local communities grow as opposed to the communities determining this for themselves.

To comply with section 3A of the new zoning act, local communities must pass a by-law at Town Meeting that complies with certain requirements of the Zoning Act.

In North Andover, the town must meet the following requirements;

1. Identify at least one district comprising of a minimum of 50 acres of developable land.
2. Zone for a minimum of 1,191 units.
3. Meet a minimum threshold of 15 units per acre of land.

North Andover resident and former candidate for State Representative, Joe Finn says he adamantly opposes the massive redevelopment proposal put forward by North Andover town officials under the MBTA Community Act.

He publicly argues that there are more beneficial options available to the town according to the law itself.

In the past, Finn has stood with the overwhelming majority of North Andover residents who share their deep concerns about the impact of large-scale multi-family housing developments on the town’s infrastructure, traffic, water, sewer, school capacity, public safety, open spaces, town character, and other factors.

During a planning board meeting held on April 16th of this year, Finn contended that the MBTA Community Act presents Massachusetts towns with a variety of options ranging from minimal, to moderate, to significant impacts on town resources.

He also noted that North Andover town officials appear to have selected an option that could have significant negative effects on town resources, surpassing what is considered substantial or sustainable.

Finn says that to mitigate the potential impact on town resources, the land designated for the new zoning could already be home to multi-family housing units, with the newly zoned housing units gradually replacing the existing ones over time.

According to section 3A of the zoning act, the MBTA community act allows for a sufficient number of multi-family housing units to “replace existing uses and structures over time – even though such additions to or replacements may be unlikely to occur soon.”

Considering these requirements, Finn argues that the preferable options for those worried about the negative impact on town resources would involve zoning districts that already have multi-family housing units, whereas the less desirable choices would entail districts without existing multi-family housing units.

By selecting districts that already include multi-family housing units (with numerous options available), North Andover could gradually substitute these units over time, potentially minimizing the impact on town resources.

But that doesn’t seem to be what town officials want to do. It seems, from what they have said on social media, that they want to pack in as many housing units and overpopulate the town to make it more like a city, than a town.

That’s not what North Andover residents want.

Rather than opting for more conservative choices, town officials have zeroed in on two districts (Osgood Landing & Market Basket/North Andover Mall) that significantly surpass some of the stipulated minimum requirements outlined in the housing act. This would place an excessive burden on town resources for sure.

To begin with, these proposed districts don’t currently have multi-family housing units available to be replaced, resulting in an addition of approximately 1,400 units beyond the town’s current inventory. That’s approximately 5,600 new residents in North Andover burdening the infrastructure of the town.

This choice also significantly surpasses the minimum required acreage by 41 acres (91 vs. 50) and exceeds the required number of minimum housing units by about 200 or more units.

Additionally, it includes a substantial amount of non-residential space for other purposes that are not obligatory under the new state law.

Essentially, town officials appear to be putting forth a proposal of such scale that it surpasses an already exceedingly burdensome state multi-family housing law, especially considering that residents previously rejected a redevelopment plan introducing approximately 656 new multi-family housing units a few years ago.

It seems as though town officials now believe they can subject North Andover residents to the severe and over-burdening impacts of an unnecessarily large-scale development proposal on town resources (which may not be entirely justified) by highlighting that a rejection could lead to the state withholding grant funds and taking legal action.

If you believe that the repercussions of turning down this proposal are as substantial as I do, you might be astonished to witness the outcomes when entities other than North Andover residents shape the town’s growth decisions.

Joe Finn says he will be voting NO on this specific proposal at town meeting and I will be too. ◊