N. Andover (MA) Could Protect Watershed

North Andover, MA: Today, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced that it has signed an agreement to purchase 27 acres on Bradford Street in North Andover with the intention of offering the land to the Town for acquisition as permanently protected open space. Last October, the Board of Selectmen asked for TPL’s assistance in securing an opportunity for the Town to purchase the property, which was specifically identified as one of the highest priorities for protection by the Open Space Committee, based on the criteria laid out in the North Andover Open Space and Recreation Plan.

Located entirely in North Andover adjacent to the Barker Dairy Farm, the property is a scenic mix of hay fields and woodlands. The land drains directly into Lake Cochichewick, which is the sole source of drinking water for North Andover and the largest body of fresh water in Essex County. The property is part of a corridor of open land that includes the 105-acre Mazurenko Farm, which was purchased by the Town in 1988.

The property’s owner, Tom Zahoruiko of North Andover, has agreed to sell the property to TPL for $1.48 million. TPL’s agreement to purchase the property is contingent on an independent appraiser confirming the value of the property, and the results of the appraisal should be available by the end of April. The agreement is also contingent on voter approval of the Community Preservation Act on Tuesday, March 20, as well as Town Meeting approval for the purchase on May 14. If Tuesday’s ballot measure is successful, the Town will implement a 3% surcharge on property taxes, with the funds going to support open space protection, historic preservation, and affordable housing.

“If North Andover voters approve the Community Preservation Act, that will be a very significant step forward for this proposed acquisition. However, there is no guarantee that the Community Preservation funds will be used to purchase the Bradford Street property,” explained Selectman John Leeman. “It is up to the Community Preservation Committee, which was created at the Special Town Meeting in January, to make recommendations to Town Meeting on dispersing these funds. Town Meeting must then approve all expenditures from North Andover’s Community Preservation Fund. However, a successful vote on March 20 will mobilize the Committee to hear public comment and prepare and present recommendations to Town Meeting in May. Given the importance of the Bradford Street property to preserving the quality of our drinking water, I, as a Selectman, will strongly encourage the Community Preservation Committee to include the purchase of the property in its recommendations to Town Meeting.” The Board of Selectmen has requested that an article proposing the Town purchase the property for permanent protection be placed on the warrant before it closes this Monday.

According to Brad Wakeman, a member of the Open Space Committee, “We are very lucky to have an opportunity to purchase this property, which is a high priority for protection because of its importance for protecting Lake Cochichewick and the quality of our drinking water. The landowner, Tom Zahoruiko, has already received permits for a seven-lot subdivision, and is ready to begin construction. Nevertheless, he graciously agreed to provide the Trust for Public Land with an option to purchase the property while the Town goes through its decision-making process. “

“As development pressure grows in northeastern Massachusetts, it threatens to permanently change the scenic character of communities like North Andover and irreversibly degrade local drinking water supplies, recreation areas, and wildlife habitat,” said TPL project manager Nellie Aikenhead. “The Trust for Public Land is pleased to be helping the Board of Selectman and the Open Space Committee provide an opportunity for Town acquisition of this property.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide, including nearly 60,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information, call TPL’s Boston office at (617) 367-6200 or visit www.tpl.org.

Note to Editors: Scanned photos are available via e-mail upon request. Please contact Liz Uhlin at (617) 367-6200 x308.