GROTON -- In a unanimous decision, the Planning Board voted to grant a special permit to Chris Ferris and Richard Cooper of 128 Main Street LLC allowing them to proceed with plans to reconstruct the former Groton Inn.
The vote came swiftly at the board's meeting of June 26 after the developers showed that they had addressed a handful of issues raised by the board's engineering consultant.
Approval of the site plan included a number of waivers to the town's zoning requirements including allowing the removal of trees along the street and their replacement elsewhere on the 8.5 acre property; the addition of a bike rack at the site; and a review of the site plan after one year.
"I love the vote," declared developer Richard Cooper immediately following the board's decision. "We're all so excited!"
Adding to Cooper's excitement are the actual plans for the new inn, which are nothing if not ambitious.
As approved by the Planning Board, the main inn building facing the street will be a replica of the former structure, which was destroyed by fire in 2011.
The new building will consist of a ground floor with room for a gift shop, 50-seat restaurant, function room, and office space while second and third floors will hold a total of 29 guest rooms. A basement area will have studio and office space, and a gym.
Next door, a carriage house will include a caretaker's apartment on the second floor with a ground floor given over to a possible rental shop for skis, bicycles and other sporting equipment, or community space.
Behind the carriage house, a trio of other townhouse-style buildings will offer permanent one- and two-bedroom rentals with views encompassing nearby Gibbet Hill.
Short-term rental units will occupy a building to be situated immediately to the rear of the inn, which planners have called "the stables."
Fashioned to resemble a colonial era stable, the building will actually hold a number of rooms for rent with such outdoor features as garden area and horse trough.
Eager to get moving on the project, Cooper said all that remained was approval by the Historic Districts Commission before actual construction could begin. Cooper hoped approval would arrive in time to break ground on the project as soon as next month for completion and occupancy next year.
Board members voted to approve extending a pair of special permits for developer Joseph Wong, owner of Crossroads Plaza located at 788 Boston Road, including one for a site plan originally approved in 2006 and a wastewater treatment plan for the environmentally sensitive site.
According to Wong attorney Robert Anctil, there are no immediate plans to develop the 4.5-acre corner site but his client is confident once the economy turns around, buyers will be interested.
In the meantime, some interest has been shown for the property but no deals have been struck due to prospective buyers declining to purchase the entire lot.
Wong first began to contemplate building at the site years ago when it became clear that plans by the state to redesign the Four Corners intersection would require the demolition of his Groton Jade Chinese Restaurant, which had lain in the path of a widening of Sandy Pond Road.
With the demolition of the restaurant, there was talk that Wong would simply rebuild elsewhere on the site but as time went on, plans emerged for a full-scale redevelopment of the lot that would include the construction of five new buildings.
Those early plans never really got off the ground, meeting resistance from town officials including the Planning Board, who were unhappy with many of its elements but especially the number and size of its buildings.
Then in 2006, Wong changed his entire design team bringing in the engineering firm of GPR Inc., which proceeded to make drastic alterations to the Crossroads concept. Changes included cutting the number of proposed buildings from five to four and reducing the total amount of square feet of retail space from 43,000 to 19,000.
Such is where the project currently stands with Anctil assuring the board that nothing in those plans have been changed since they approved them eight years ago.
Currently, on the opposite side of Sandy Pond Road from the Crossroads site, is the Shaw's Plaza where a number of buildings have also been built but save for the supermarket itself, have remained unoccupied since their construction in 2005.