GROTON -- After years of dormancy, there was news from the Planning Board of possible economic activity at the mostly empty Shaws plaza at the Four Corners.
News of the stirrings came from planning administrator Michelle Collette, who told board members at their meeting of Jan. 24 that a pair of inquiries to her office about the plaza had been received.
"They are just putting out feelers," warned a cautious Collette. "But something's going to be happening at that Shaws."
Built some years ago, the Shaws plaza has yet to be fully developed beyond the existing supermarket and a single retail building that had, until recently, housed the Riverbend high end appliance store.
Permitted to add more buildings to the site, the owners have never had the opportunity to do so, leaving its vast 232-space parking area a mostly empty expanse.
More tellingly for the plaza, a recent attempt to establish a Lost Lake Sewer District, which would have had its wastewater line run directly past the Shaws and on into Ayer, could have made the underdeveloped property more attractive to potential investors but fell through when Town Meeting voted the plan down.
Also languishing at the Four Corners is Crossroads Plaza located directly across Sandy Pond Road from the supermarket. The former location of the Groton Jade Chinese restaurant that had been demolished when Route 119 was widened and the intersection improved has also lain undeveloped for years.
"They have not had a lot of interest in retail," said Collette of the lack of activity at the supermarket site.
Now, however, Collette reported that an unidentified realtor inquired with her office about a change in use for the Riverbend building and the possibility of converting it into office space while local attorney Robert Collins was said to be exploring its use as a medical office building.
Collette said she could not say if the inquiries represented two different parties or only one.
The only real question for either inquiry at such an early stage of the game, asked Collette, was if the Shaws site was permitted for office space or medical office space.
"It is a permitted use," said board Chairman John Giger of the question of office space.
All agreed that medical space would require more septic capacity.
Also at the Jan. 24 meeting, board members:
* Voted to confirm that a housing unit at the Academy Hill subdivision is to be designated as the third of five affordable homes in the growing development. Located off Townsend Road, when completed, Academy Hill will include a total of 94 homes located on 100 acres. As part of developer Bruce Wheeler's agreement with the town, parts of another 213 acres are to be donated to the town and the state's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife as conservation land.
* Voted to postpone a public hearing on a plan by the Groton Electric Light Department to install banks of solar voltaic panels on property off Nate Nutting Road until June 13. According to Collette, the delay was made necessary when it was discovered that the site might harbor an endangered species.
* Voted to postpone a public hearing on a plan by landowner Gerald Croteau to develop his North Street property as the Bluestone Drive Residential Development. According to Collette, the delay was sought due to engineering issues. Croteau's plan calls for dividing his 20-acre property, the former site of the Colonial Stoneyard, into at least seven lots with half the acreage to remain as open space. Most of the lots would be reserved for home construction along a 400-foot access road taking the form of an elliptical shaped cul-de-sac with a single lot set aside for a pair of possible affordable-housing units which would be located in the former stoneyard's existing office building to be renovated for the purpose.
* Discussed ongoing plans to fashion town center overlay district design guidelines involving streetscapes, landscapes, parking and access, lighting and signage. According to wording in a draft of the working document, the guidelines are needed to "promote a socially and economically vibrant town center by enabling civic, commercial and residential development that is consistent with ... the town's master plan." The guidelines will also provide landowners "with the opportunity to elect an alternative form of development which provides greater flexibility and density in exchange for advancing the town's design and land-use goals." Core values to be inculcated within the new guidelines include cultural, environmental and economic factors.