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Andover ZBA Denies Special Permit, Sending Illegal Contractor Yard Back to Court

Mackey, Robertson attended on behalf of town; upshot is the status quo as residents wait for ruling

On Thursday, the Andover Zoning Board of Appeals picked up a hearing on an unpermitted contractor yard currently operating at 1325 South St. that was continued from Sept. 23.

Fieldstone Circle residents, Rep. David Robertson and Tewksbury Select Board member James Mackey attended the meeting, where the ZBA considered whether to uphold a longstanding cease-and-desist order. Attorney Peter Caruso of Andover appeared on behalf of the property owner, Matthew Strong of Forever Endeavor, an LLC registered at 4 Rennie Dr., Andover. Caruso is representing Strong in the case, which was filed in 2022.

“It was offensive from the get-go,” said Andover ZBA member Ellen Keller of the yard. “Had they come to us originally seeking a special permit, as it were, we could have addressed those things from the get go. At this point, it’s a 50-year problem that will never really be rectified.”

After a lengthy discussion, the ZBA came down to two choices: Grant a time-limited permit of up to two years with enforcement of more than 30 restrictions requested by the Tewksbury Town Manager’s office, or deny the permit and remit the matter back to the courts. That would and leave the status quo in place until a decision is rendered.

“We are in a frustrating position,” said ZBA Chair Elizabeth Oltman. “It’s unregulated, there’s no conditions, there’s no governance.”

The thinking was that, with additional proposed restrictions that were favorable to the neighborhood, enforcement could have been stepped up on a number of issues affecting residents, including increased heavy-vehicle traffic on South St. and environmental concerns.

Watch the full meeting on Andover TV

Robertson questioned the noise and called out storage of vehicles, which could result in groundwater contamination.

“Any storage of vehicles, especially commercial or industrial vehicles, subjects us to a wide, broad scope of potential degradation of the property,” said Robertson, citing a recent spill of about a dozen gallons of hydraulic fluid in Wilmington. “The EPA is still remediating this. They had to repave the street. They had to rip out the front lawns, they had to rip out several inches of topsoil.”

Mackey acknowledged the work the Andover ZBA has done, including several site walks. 

After hearing from elected representatives and residents, Oltman made a motion to approve the special permit with conditions, including no use except those aligned with landscaping. That would curtail storage of, for example, auto parts and asbestos.

“It’s been two years that we’ve been in this limbo, and the court has sent it back, and [the applicant] provided what we asked for,” she said, referring to traffic and noise studies. “So I think there there is some benefits of conditions given what’s happening out there … if something inappropriate happens, if there’s violations, there can be consequences. Right now there’s no consequences.”

Her motion to grant that limited special permit failed to garner the required supermajority. A motion to deny the special permit, which would result in the status quo as Strong continues to operate illegally while appealing the board’s decision, passed.  

Now, the civil action brought by Strong seeking reversal of the zoning board’s decision to deny a special permit returns to the court, which could end up overturning the decision. Meanwhile, residents remain in limbo.

“That area shouldn’t exist,” said ZBA member Kathy Faulk. “It should be covered with trees.”

This is the lot at the end of South St. now, compared with 2019, below.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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