Andover kicked off a 10-month master planning process this summer, with a goal of delivering a final report by March. The process is still in the “learning phase,” with a series of upcoming events planned. Here’s what you need to know about the Master Plan.

What is a master plan?

Massachusetts law requires towns to conduct a master planning process every 10 years. to collect community views and plan for housing, transportation, economic development, and a range of other issues that affect life in town. In Andover, the plan will incorporate public input and “provide a coordinated roadmap for the future development and evolution of the town.” The master plan is not an exhaustive study of every issue in town, but a framework that, among other things, may lead to more detailed studies in the future.

“It is a policy guide and a framework for future land use and development. It includes assessments of existing resources and issues, as well as projections of future conditions and needs in consideration of community goals and desires,” the town said on its master plan Website. “In sum, a Master Plan describes what the community is like today and what direction it should go in the future.”

What are the biggest issues the master plan will address?

Andover, like several Massachusetts towns, is trying to find a balance between affordability and livability. In a 2021 survey conducted as part of Andover’s Comprehensive plan, one of the biggest issues identified as a lack of affordable housing that was pricing some residents out of town.

“The importance of maintaining a rural character combined with this access to the greater region is a key factor that will help determine the future of planning in Andover,” the steering committee notes in its June presentation. “The plan will need to promote growth in such a way that preserves the town’s sense of place while also taking advantage of Andover’s specific economic development and regional strengths.”

The survey also identified schools, town support services, and the downtown business district as top priorities, while respondents felt government transparency and public transportation were “not working” in Andover.

What happens in the “learning” phase?

The current, learning phase kicked off earlier this summer with a survey of Andover residents and businesses. In addition to the survey, the master plan steering committee held meetings and made presentations in June and July. The next steering committee meeting is scheduled for Aug. 16.

Next month, the process will enter the “exploring” phase, where goals and objectives for the master plan will be refined. That will include public outreach at Andover Day on Sept. 24 and a “visioning workshop” on Sept. 28.

What happened to the 2012 Master Plan?

Key issues identified in the 2012 Master Plan included land use, economic development, housing, transportation and open space and recreation. The plan emphasized downtown development, walkable neighborhoods and reusing historical buildings.

Since then, the 2012 Master Plan has led to more detailed plans, including the 2016 Imagine Andover plan for downtown, the 2018 Housing Production Plan, the 2018 Open Space Plan and last year’s Downtown Rapid Recovery Plan.