GROTON -- Developers of a new Groton Inn crossed the finish line in their goal to have design plans fully approved by the town when the Historic Districts Commission voted to award a certificate of appropriateness.
The certificate places the commission's seal of approval on designs for the project. Developers Chris Ferris and Richard Cooper of 128 Main Street LLC based plans on genuine historic features of the original inn, destroyed by fire in 2011.
"It's been a great review process," said architect Peter Pitman immediately following the July 1 decision. "There was a great spirit of collaboration well supported by the community and town boards. And all of it was accomplished in the historical context of the district."
The final meeting with the HDC was the last in a review process that went smoothly among the town's various land-use boards with the commission's decision coming unexpectedly at the conclusion of the public hearing.
Only the week before, the Planning Board had completed its own site plan review for the inn project voting to grant developers a special permit.
The July 1 HDC hearing covered the different parts of the project that included the inn building itself, a carriage house, long-term rental units and short-term units grouped under one roof called "the stables" by planners.
Fashioned to resemble a colonial-era stable, the latter building will actually hold a number of rooms for rent with period features such as garden and horse trough.
The inn building itself 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 29 guest rooms. A basement will hold studio, office space and a gym.
Next door, the carriage house will hold 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.
A trio of other townhouse-style buildings will offer permanent one- and two-bedroom rental spaces with views of nearby Gibbet Hill.
Among concerns covered at the July 1 public hearing involved landscaping, lighting, "clutter" on the inn grounds facing Main Street and provisions for recovery of any archeological artifacts of possible value to the town that might be unearthed during construction.
Commissioners questioned Pitman on the columns that will support the front porch; window, door, clapboard, shingle and gutter styles, colors of paint to be used and possible extension of the front porch around one side of the building to help minimize the size of a proposed fireplace there.
With little comment on the presentation, commissioners voted to close the public hearing and, finding that they were in agreement, decided to go on to the final vote on appropriateness.
That vote was contingent on a number of conditions listed in draft form covering protection of existing mature vegetation at the site, decorative and retaining walls to be fashioned in New England fieldstone style, use of color photos of existing buildings for comparison purposes, protection of any historic artifacts found on the site, materials used in the construction of the inn building to be consistent with available historic information and review and approval of paint colors to be used on site prior to their being applied.
According to Cooper, with the HDC's vote of approval, he and his partner will move to close on the purchase of the property from current owner George Pergantis with hope of breaking ground some time in August.
The 8.5-acre property is located on Main Street in the heart of Groton's downtown.
"I would like to thank all of the consultants, architects and the entire team that have brought this project to fulfillment," said Cooper. "This has been an extremely collaborative and creative process and I feel that we have a great product here that will be a benefit to the entire community."