South Church was approached by Habitat and Andover Community Trust who offered to buy a parcel of land we owned in order to build permanently affordable housing units. On May 7th 2018, the congregation voted to move ahead with this project.
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Before the vote on May 7th, there were 8+ meetings to help explain the proposal and answer questions. We tried to point out the great potential this has for church outreach, but as with any major decision within the church, there were also potential concerns. We shared the concerns to help all come to the vote with a balanced view.
- The understanding with ACT and Habitat is that the purchase price will be $200k if Andover approves the planned 6 units in 3 duplex, but that if the town for some reason limits them to 4 units then the purchase price will be $150k. This is not a change, but several of the communications have only mentioned the $200k number. ACT and Habitat have made it clear that they very much want to build six units and will only initially present a six unit plan to the various approval groups.
- There was concern that this property is an asset that will increase in value in the coming years and it should be kept to address possible financial crises in the future. If we sell the land it will be turned into a different asset (about 2/3 of the assessed value will be turned into cash), but if one believes the land in Andover will appreciate faster than our Trustees investments, then we give up some future potential. In response to this it was noted that, depending on market conditions at the time of a potential crisis, the land could be difficult to sell. We have also heard alternate suggestions that since we were given the property we should give it to ACT and Habitat without compensation.
- There was a concern that the land would have an important church use in the future – cemetery expansion, new buildings, etc. The team has done a survey of available cemetery space in Andover (there is extensive space in West Parish and Spring Grove). In addition there have not been requests for burial sites in our cemetery for several years, but it is always possible this could change in the future. With the Historic Mill District approval, the land across Lupine Rd may improve significantly over coming decades, so it is possible that a new church use could be identified as a result of this.
- The property is a pleasant wooded field, and it is one of the remaining green spaces in the downtown area.
- There are several large condo/apartment developments planned in Andover, and typically these are required to provide 15% affordable housing. This may allow the town to stay above the 10% affordable housing state target over the next decade. So the question is why South Church needs to address this issue. The discussion on this pointed out that these are houses, not apartments, that they are downtown in walking distance of the trains, and that 10% is an arbitrary level while there is a massive need. This truly centers on whether South Church feels called to contribute to the need for affordable housing.
- There was concern that Lupine is a busy road without a sidewalk and that children could be at risk walking along the street. The plan is for an internal cut-de-sac, so there is space off street for children, but this is something to discuss with the town. As the historic district develops this may be addressed.
- Spring 2017 -Informational Meetings with South Church members and congregational meeting vote on the project Fall 2017
- Summer 2017 – Schematic Site Design, Building Design, Preliminary Site Engineering
- Fall 2017— Final project design presentation to Andover Housing Partnership Committee for recommendation to Selectmen.
- Winter/Spring 2017-2018— Andover Selectmen approval; Mass Dept of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) approval.
- Spring 2018 – Comprehensive Permit from Andover Zoning Board of Appeals for a 40B Local Initiative Program (LIP) project. Final construction documents and contracts for site work, utilities and foundations. Building permit and closing of land sale with South Church.
- Summer 2018 – Site construction, underground utilities, building foundations
- Fall Winter Spring 2018- 2019 – ACT House construction by Greater Lawrence Technical School. Habitat home construction by volunteers and future homeowners; Homeowner selection happens.
- Summer 2019 – Sale of ACT units to income eligible owners; Sale of first Habitat units