GROTON -- Talk of rejection and appeals at the Planning Board's meeting of Dec. 6 likely gave restaurateur George Pergantis a few moments of trepidation before a possible solution to parking woes was proposed by the end of the public hearing.
Triggering Pergantis' anxiety over the fate of his months long search for permission from the town to reestablish himself in the food service business was a report from the building inspector on the total number of seats allowed in the carriage house, a building on his 124 Main Street property that survived a fire that destroyed the next door Groton Inn.
In that report, dated Nov. 28, Milton Kinney broke down seating for the seafood restaurant that Pergantis is trying to convert the carriage house into: 127 for the function hall, 64 for the restaurant, and 80 for a patio area totaling 271 in all.
One would have thought that a finding of 271 over the 154 that Pergantis had applied for was good news for the applicant, but it wasn't.
With 271 seats, the number of parking spaces proposed by Pergantis was 46 short of what was now needed with the new figure.
It was at that point that chairman John Giger asked board members if they would be willing to grant a waiver on the application if Pergantis could not show enough parking spaces on his site plan to cover all the seating.
When some members expressed reservations, it was then that Giger mentioned the possibility of rejecting the application and began talking about possible ways Pergantis could appeal the decision through the state court system, admittedly a drawn out process.
The problem, summed up Giger, was that the law prevented the board from limiting the number of seats allowed in the restaurant below that determined by the building inspector forcing them in a direction not to the liking of anyone.
At that point, Pergantis representative, engineer Jeffrey Brem, compared his client's situation with that of Town Hall, which as he pointed out, also did not have the required parking spaces.
Planning Administrator Michelle Collette admitted that the town had been granted a waiver in that instance.
Suddenly, a resident in attendance at the public hearing rose in support of the application demanding to know how any parking had been approved for Pergantis' property when the Groton Inn, its restaurant, and the carriage house function hall all had been in operation at the same time.
If all that activity could be accommodated without complaint, said the resident who refused to be identified, why was there a problem with just the carriage house alone?
In reply, Collette said the issue had never come before the board for review.
Reminding the board that he alone represented the views of the applicant, Brem noted that in his application, Pergantis had not requested 271 seats.
Pergantis himself then told the board that he had no intention of using the patio area to serve customers so that occupancy at no time would ever reach the maximum identified by Kinney.
Nevertheless, member Russell Burke, who had previously described the resident's objections as a "rant," said that the board could not ignore the possibility since a future owner could change his mind and do so.
Russell's suggestion that interior changes to the carriage house designed to cut down on seating could solve the problem was met with resistance by Brem who said that any changes would end up blocking exits that had already been approved sparking the need for more changes and a new round of approvals and permitting.
As discussion on the issue continued, there seemed a real possibility that the applicant's whole plan could be rejected until board member George Barringer suggested that the empty central portion of the property where the former inn used to stand could be used for overflow parking called "greenbanking."
As a temporary measure, greenbanking would require no special permitting by the board and would solve the impasse.
Agreeing to the idea, Brem suggested that the hearing be continued while he worked to alter the design plan to show spaces for 35 cars in the central portion of the property with his original request for a waiver to allow 11 on street parking spaces to stand.
Amenable to the suggestion, the board scheduled its meeting of Dec. 13 for the continuation.