A look back at some of the most notable stories in Andover from 2023.
Town of Andover Newsletter
January 4, 2024 | No. 101

A Look Back at 2023 in Andover

Happy New Year, Andover! 2023 was a transformative year for our community. While not without challenges, the year brought meaningful progress in many critical areas, from pedestrian safety to economic development. In this edition of the Bartlet Street Dispatch, we'll take a retrospective look at some of the most noteworthy Town initiatives, events, and developments from 2023 by highlighting one key story from each month of the year.


Town Launches Bartlet Street Dispatch, Providing a New Way for Residents to Stay Informed

2023 brought a renewed focus on communications and digital outreach for the Town of Andover. Responding to increasing expectations from the community and evolving methods by which residents receive information, the Town introduced a series of new communications initiatives throughout the year. In January, the Town launched its official newsletter, the Bartlet Street Dispatch. Subscribers of the Dispatch receive information about Town projects, events, and other key developments delivered directly to their inbox twice per month. We appreciate all those who have followed along for the past twelve months and look forward to delivering more coverage about what's going on at Town Offices and around the community in 2024. The Town of Andover has big plans for new and innovative ways to reach residents in the year ahead, so stay tuned for updates!


Town Releases FY 2024 Budget Recommendation Containing Historic Investments in Public Safety

In February, the Town Manager's recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2024 was released. Among a host of significant strategic investments included in the document, the FY2024 budget notably included funding to add nine firefighters and three police officers, new investments that will be fully offset through ambulance billing fees, downtown parking revenue, and reduced overtime budgets in both the Police and Fire Rescue Departments.

In proposing increased public safety staffing levels, the budget represented a major step in achieving a priority established in the Town Manager and Select Board’s strategic goals for 2022-2023, which prioritized the need to enhance public safety capacity given the growth and evolving needs of the community over recent decades. 


Prior to this fiscal year, public safety staffing levels were last adjusted in Andover in 2000. In the more than two decades since, Andover population grew by 5,270, or 16.8 percent. Significant growth was also seen in Andover's daytime population as a result of commercial and industrial expansion. These factors translated to a significant increase in call volumes for Andover's public safety departments. The addition of three new police officers and nine new firefighters marked a significant effort to recalibrate the capacity of both departments to meet increased demands.


The FY2024 budget totaled $234,752,077, representing a 3.6 increase over the previous fiscal year, consistent with the Town's long range financial plan. The budget was ultimately approved at Annual Town Meeting on May 1.

Final Beam Raised at West Elementary/Shawsheen Preschool During Topping Off Ceremony

In March, a major milestone in the construction of the new West Elementary School and Shawsheen Preschool was celebrated as the final beam was raised to form the facility's structure. The beam was signed by members of the construction team, Town and Andover Public School officials, West Elementary School students, and members of the Andover community before behind hoisted into place at the conclusion of the Topping Off Ceremony.

The project represents a $168 million investment, including $38.4 million in funding from the MSBA. When complete, the facility will house West Elementary School and Shawsheen Preschool under one roof across 191,000 square feet of state-of-the-art learning space. Construction on the project began in June 2022, and is anticipated to last approximately two years.


The process to replace West Elementary School has been underway since 2016, when a Town Facility report found the two schools to be the most in need of capital improvements. The project was invited into the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s School Building Assistance Program, and a School Building Committee was formed in 2017.

Andover Fire Rescue Launches EMS Bike Team

In April, Fire Chief Michael Mansfield announced the launch of a new EMS Bike Team to facilitate swift and effective emergency responses at community events. The bike team offers a cost-effective means to reach patients more rapidly than a traditional ambulance, especially in high-density event settings where maneuvering through crowds with an ambulance can be challenging.


The fourteen initial members of the EMS Bike Team received extensive training in April. They were first deployed during Andover's Memorial Day Celebration and have since become a regular presence at major events like Andover Days, the Feaster Five Thanksgiving Road Race, and the Town's Fourth of July festivities.


Equipped to provide Basic Life Support to individuals while an ambulance is en route, the EMS Bike Team delivers critical first aid within moments. Using bicycles also enables responders to engage with crowds at community events between calls, fostering increased community engagement.


This initiative was made possible with support from Merrimack Valley Striders (MVS) and the Dave McGillivray Finish Strong Foundation, Inc."


These revisions aim to enhance readability and flow while maintaining the original content's clarity and coherence.

FY 2024 Budget, TIF Agreement, Landfill Closure, and Electronic Voting Among Measures Approved at Annual Town Meeting

Andover’s 2023 Annual Town Meeting took place over two nights from Monday, May 1 through Tuesday, May 2. Town Meeting approved 38 of the 41 articles appearing on the warrant. Two private warrant articles were disapproved, and another was withdrawn from consideration.


Town Meeting acted on a host of issues of critical importance to the Town, including approval of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, a major tax increment financing (TIF) agreement, closure of the Ledge Road Landfill, and a home rule petition restricting use of the excess levy capacity created through the pension obligation bond plan. 

Town Finalizes Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) with Minco Development

In June, the Select Board voted to approve a land disposition agreement (LDA) with Minco Development Corporation for 11 Lewis Street, also known as the Old Town Yard. The signing of the LDA marked a significant milestone in advancing Minco’s proposed development of the site, which is anticipated to include 163 residential units, community amenities, and retail space. 

The Old Town Yard site is located in close proximity to Downtown Andover and the MBTA commuter rail station. The former home of the Town’s Public Works Department, the roughly three-acre site has long been considered one of the premier development opportunities in Andover and a catalyst for the revitalization of the Historic Mill District (HMD).  

Following a vote by Town Meeting to sell 11 Lewis Street in 2020, the Town issued a community-authored Request for Proposals (RFP) for the redevelopment of the property that reflected input from residents and business owners on what they would like to see at the site. In 2021, a Selection Committee chose Minco Development, a North Andover-based firm, to develop the site. The selection was affirmed by the Select Board in December 2021.

Under the timeline established in the LDA, the outside closing date for the sale of the property is June 2026 and may be significantly sooner depending on the pace of multi-agency permitting. Minco will be required to begin construction within 60 days of the closing, and to complete the project by August 2029.

Three Major Town Planning Initiatives Reach Completion, Final Reports Released

Three major planning efforts came to a close in July, each resulting in comprehensive documents that will guide decision making in key areas for years to come. The Town's first Climate Action & Sustainability Plan (CAP), Comprehensive Plan, and Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) were all unveiled publicly during the July 17 Select Board meeting


Climate Action & Sustainability Plan
The Climate Action & Sustainability Plan provides a roadmap for the Town to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, outlining 35 priority actions to support achieving that objective. The development of the Plan began in July 2021, and more than 1,000 members of the community were engaged in the process throughout the two years of its development through surveys, community events, and one-on-one meetings.


There are three key takeaways from the Plan that are critical to the Town of Andover achieving benchmarks for curbing carbon emissions. First, the plan aims to promote sustainable mobility by encouraging widespread adoption of electric vehicles and prioritizing non-motorized transportation options. Secondly, in the energy sector, the focus is on participating in the municipal aggregation program, pending approval from the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), to effectively reduce emissions. Lastly, in the buildings sector, the plan advocates for adopting a specialized building code for new construction to future-proof homes and businesses, along with promoting heat pumps, while ensuring that low-income households are not left behind during this transition.

Comprehensive Plan
The Andover Comprehensive Plan, also referred to informally as a Master Plan, is a planning tool which develops a strategic vision and roadmap for the Town’s future. Both a comprehensive assessment of existing resources and a policy guide for future development, the plan establishes priorities around housing, economic development, open space and recreation, and a range of other topics. The Town’s previous Master Plan was adopted by the Planning Board in 2012, and has served as a guide for the Planning Board on special permit decisions and recommendations on Town Meeting warrant articles for the past decade.


In May of 2021, the Town of Andover initiated the process of developing an updated plan that accounts for significant changes in the community over the past decade with the appointment of a steering committee comprised of Andover residents with a diverse range of professional expertise. The development of the plan took place over two years, and was guided by input gathered from the community through surveys and several well-attended visioning sessions.

Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP)
The Community Health Improvement Plan, or CHIP, is a comprehensive strategic framework aimed at enhancing the health and well-being of the Andover community. Developed through a collaborative effort led by the Andover Health Division, the CHIP outlines priority health issues and strategies to drive positive health outcomes for the residents of Andover.

The development of the CHIP was initiated in 2022 when Andover forged a partnership with the North Andover Health Department to contract with Health Resources in Action, Inc. (HRiA) to conduct a shared Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). This partnership allowed the pooling of resources and collaboration between the two towns, leading to their first-ever community health improvement processes.

The CHIP identifies three crucial health priorities that emerged from the CHNA findings: mental health across the lifespan, affordable housing, and diversity, equity, and sense of community. The plan outlines strategies and objectives for achieving progress in these priority areas.

Pedestrian Safety Improvements Implemented in Elm Square

During the summer of 2023, following a tragic pedestrian accident in Elm Square, the Town of Andover initiated a comprehensive process to assess and implement transportation improvements in the intersection. The process was led by a multi-disciplinary group of senior Town officials, including staff from the Town Manager's Office, Andover Police Department, Facilities Department, and Public Works. The Town also retained TEC, Inc. (TEC), a civil engineering firm specializing in traffic and pedestrian safety, to facilitate the assessment.


A Road Safety Audit (RSA) was conducted as a component of the Town's broader effort to address safety concerns at Elm Square. An RSA is defined by the Federal Highway Administration as the “formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent, multidisciplinary team.”


In August, a series of immediate-term changes identified through the audit took effect in Elm Square. These improvements included implementation of exclusive pedestrian phasing, where traffic is stopped in all directions when walk signals are activated; conversion of the left lane on North Main Street southbound to an exclusive left-turn lane; and installation of "No Turn on Red" signs on Main Street northbound and North Main Street South bound approaches.


The Town has continued to monitor the impact of these changes throughout recent months and is continuing to assess additional potential improvements, including signalization of slip lanes, lighting improvements, and adjusted placement of stop lines, among other items. Roadway safety will remain a top priority for the Town of Andover in 2024.

Andover Impacted by Extreme Weather Event Causing Widespread Power Outages, Town Responds

On Friday, September 8, Andover was heavily impacted by an extreme weather event. In the span of approximately 15 minutes, severe winds inflicted significant damage across town, downing trees and power lines, and leaving many streets impassable. More than 80 percent of the community lost power immediately, and the majority of town would remain in the dark for the next 48 hours.


In the aftermath of the storm, Town departments immediately mobilized to respond to the crisis, responding to an influx of emergency calls, clearing trees and debris from roadways, opening emergency cooling centers, providing updates and alerts to residents, and more. Town staff worked through the weekend as thousands of residents remained without power. 


The Department of Public Works' effort to remove downed limbs and tree debris across town lasted for several months. The remnants of the storm can still be seen on Town Conservation properties, which experienced an incredible volume of fallen trees. The Conservation Division has worked diligently, with the support of volunteer groups, to clear trees from trails to ensure they are passable and can be safely enjoyed by the community. This effort remains ongoing four months later.


The impact of the storm and the Town's response in the immediate aftermath was documented in a brief segment produced by AndoverTV, which can be viewed at the link below.

Town Awarded $3.3 million MassWorks Grant for Improvements to Essex Street Corridor

The Healey-Driscoll administration has announced that the Town of Andover will receive a $3.3 million grant through the Commonwealth’s MassWorks Infrastructure Program to support roadway and sidewalk improvements in the Essex Street corridor. 


The funding will enable the Town to improve municipal infrastructure along and adjacent to Essex Street, which runs from Elm Square to Red Spring Road. It also serves as a major connector road, or “spine,” of the mixed-use corridor west of Main Street. The anticipated improvements will aim to make the corridor more walkable, improve the safety of intersections along the route for all users, strengthen the connectivity between Downtown Andover and key destinations including the MBTA commuter rail station and Historic Mill District, and support future housing development.


Planned improvements include widening the sidewalk on the northern side of Essex Street to enhance pedestrian safety, the addition of bicycle accommodations, and upgrades to water and drainage systems serving the corridor. Additionally, the funding will enable the Town to implement multimodal safety improvements to three key intersections:

  • Essex Street at Pearson Street/Railroad Avenue
  • Essex Street at School Street
  • Essex Street at Ridge Street/Brook Street 
Electronic Voting Debuted at Special Town Meeting, Voters Approve Funding to Design Interim AHS Project

The Special Town Meeting held on Monday, November 20 was a historic occasion on multiple counts as it saw an attendance of 2,004 registered voters, the highest turnout at an Andover Town Meeting in more than 20 years, and marked the first time that electronic voting was used at Town Meeting following its approval at Annual Town Meeting in May. 


Town Meeting voted to disapprove Article 7A, which would have appropriated funding to complete schematic design of a full AHS replacement project, and voted to approve Article 7B, appropriating $500,000 to design an interim project to make short-term improvements to the existing AHS facility. Design of the project will be managed by the Permanent Town Building Advisory Committee which would include representation from school administration, town administration, the Andover High School Building Committee and the School Committee. 


Full results from the Special Town Meeting can be viewed at the link below.

Working Group Selects Locations for MBTA Communities Multi-Family Housing Zone

Developing a plan to comply with the state's MBTA Communities zoning law and engaging the community around the topic was a major area of focus for Andover Planning Division throughout 2023. 


Under thezoning law, municipalities served by the commuter rail must create a zoning district where multi-family housing is permitted as of right. The district must allow a minimum gross density of 15 units per acre and must cover at least 50 acres. The district must have a minimum zoning capacity of 15% of the community’s current housing stock, which in Andover results in a minimum capacity of 2,031.


In June, the Town appointed an MBTA Communities Working Group to support public outreach and help identify strategies for achieving compliance with the law. 


In December, following extensive community engagement, the Working Group voted to recommend dispersing the location of Andover’s compliant multi-family housing zone across three locations: Downtown, Ballardvale, and the River Road Corridor.


Guidelines for the implementation of the law released by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities allow for the district to be divided among several sites, as is being proposed in Andover, and for a portion of the district to be located outside of the immediate vicinity of a transit station. The Downtown and Ballardvale portions of the district are both proposed to be located within half a mile of Andover’s commuter rail stations, while the River Road portion is further away from either transit station, but in close proximity to many large employers.


The MBTA Communities Working Group is continuing to refine certain characteristics of its proposed zoning districts, including the density that will be permitted within each location. The final zoning recommendations will ultimately be reflected in a zoning bylaw article to be considered by Town Meeting. Public outreach regarding the MBTA Communities zoning law in Andover will continue throughout the next several months leading up to Town Meeting. 

View this email in your browser
You are receiving this email because of your relationship with Town of Andover. Please reconfirm your interest in receiving emails from us. If you do not wish to receive any more emails, you can unsubscribe here.
This message was sent from communications@notify.andoverma.us to communications@notify.andoverma.us
36 Barlet Street, Andover, Massachusetts, 01810

Update Profile/Email Address