Grow, Gift, Repair

Municpal Guidance Article: North Andover

Opponents of the proposed $100 million “Massachusetts Innovation Works” project cheered as screens in the high school’s fieldhouse — packed to capacity with thousands of residents — showed the final count: 1,430 in favor of the ban to 1,155 against.

“I’m going to wake up tomorrow with a smile,” said former town moderator Charles Salisbury, who spearheaded opposition to the proposal. “The real question was, would the proponents be able to field an audience large enough to overwhelm the silent majority in town? But the town turned out in huge numbers. People said, ‘where did this come from? What are you doing to my town?’ ’’

The vote rendered moot other articles on the warrant that would have allowed the project to proceed, and proponents withdrew them. Representatives of Mass. Innovation Works declined to comment on what the decision meant for the future of the project, but it seemed clear it could not go ahead as currently conceived.

Much of the debate at the Special Town Meeting focused on the economic and social value of the facility, which would have included a large commercial cultivation operation plus a research center.

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“We have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to secure a multimillion [dollar] stream of revenue for the town and keep [tax increases] and borrowing to a minimum,” Finance Committee member Karin Blake said. “This is a well-financed, well-developed, forward-looking business plan.”

“I think the property values in North Andover will go down dramatically,” countered Susan Papalia, a local real estate agent. “We’re just not that kind of town. It’s just doesn’t fit with the character”