Special Town Meeting set for March 11; public meeting Feb. 14 | News

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ANDOVER — The Select Board has set March 11 for a resident petitioned Special Town Meeting.

The meeting was called after a group of residents filed a petition in an effort to stop the paving of a rail trail next to Haggetts Pond.

Town officials say the goal of the paving project is to create an accessible trail, but opposition has grown from many in the community, including abutters, who worry about the project’s impact on the environment.

A joint meeting of municipal boards and committees including the Select Board, Finance Committee, School Committee, Conservation Commission, Commission on Disability, Planning Board and Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has will be held Wednesday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m., at Wood Hill Middle School Auditorium, 11 Cross St., to discuss three articles included in the warrant set for the March 11 Special Town Meeting.

During a Select Board meeting Feb. 12, one resident criticized officials for setting the meeting on Valentines Day; voicing his disapproval in a poem.

According to the Feb. 14 meeting’s agenda, all seven groups will consider taking a position on the articles.

The petitioners and other opponents of the project worry about potential impacts of the trail including on the town’s water supply, trees and the natural beauty of the location. Haggetts Pond also serves as the town’s water supply.

Town officials, including the director of Conservation Bob Douglas, have said paving the path will not harm the town’s water supply.

The three articles seek to block the project through changes to Andover’s bylaw. Andover’s legal counsel Doug Heim said he will release a memo on the legality of the articles later this week.

The town is planning on paving a roughly 1.6 mile stretch of trail, which lies adjacent to Haggetts Pond. The project would be funded by a state grant and American Rescue Plan funds.

The project has most recently been under the scrutiny of the Conservation Commission which enforces laws related to the wetlands.

This will be the second Special Town Meeting in the last six months. The most recent Special Town Meeting was a mix of resident- and town-petitioned articles and chiefly dealt with proposed new high school project.

In order to follow state law, the Select Board must hold Special Town Meetings within 45 days after petitions have been submitted, said Select Board chair Melissa Danisch.

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