A draft of the vision, goals and objectives for the Andover Master Plan distributed at a roundtable discussion Thursday puts an emphasis on growing the town’s residential and commercial tax bases.
Andover kicked off a 10-month master planning process this past summer, with a goal of delivering a final report for adoption by the planning board in March. Massachusetts law requires towns to conduct a master planning process every 10 years, to collect community views a develop plans for housing, transportation, economic development, and a range of other issues that affect life in town.
“Pursuing tax base growth should be a pertinent town strategy as property tax revenues comprise 75% of the town’s general fund revenue,” the 10-page draft released Thursday reads. “A diversified and overall larger tax base can be captured through zoning changes and densification (sic) of certain areas of the town, as well as through making key investments that can ensure long-term liveability (sic) and support a greater diversity of who can live and work in Andover.”
Draft Calls For More Housing Options
Strategies for increasing housing suggested in the draft included “encouraging” developers to set aside affordable units for “creative economy workers” in new housing developments over 20,000 square feet, changing zoning rules to make it easier to convert single-family into multi-family homes, and allowing more “accessory dwelling units” — small, self-contained units in owner-occupied homes, such as in-law apartments.
The draft also puts an emphasis on affordable housing for seniors and building housing near public transportation. The draft, for example, suggests easing density requirements near downtown and commuter rail stations. The draft also recommends building more mixed-use developments near the town’s existing industrial and office parks “to attract new residents who already commute to Andover, which will diversify the town’s tax base.”
The draft does not, however, offer specifics and projections on town finances. Nor does it mention schools or education, a key component in the 2012 Andover Master Plan, and an issue that was identified as important by respondents to a 2021 survey conducted as part of Andover’s Comprehensive Plan. In the 2012 plan, “Quality Education” was the first item listed in the vision statement and goals.
Paying For It
The Master Plan draft hints Andover’s AAA/Aa1 bond rating and its fiscal management could allow for more borrowing to help pay for the improvements that will be envisioned in the final plan. The draft noted the town is scheduled to pay off abut 68 percent of its existing debt over the next 10 years, and annual debt payments are about 4.7 percent of total government fund expenditures.
“Andover is in a good financial position to take on strategic debt in order to finance critical changes in the town that promote future growth,” the draft said. “While strongly suited to take on additional debt, managing it will require growing and diversifying the Town’s tax base to ensure tax revenues continue to support Andover’s growth, maintenance, and its strong bond rating.”