GROTON -- The Planning Board began a site-plan review of a proposal long in the works to turn the former Colonial Stoneyard off North Street into a new subdivision with at least seven lots.
The proposed Bluestone Drive residential development is being proposed by landowner Gerald Croteau for a 20-acre parcel that he had worked as a gravel pit since the 1950s.
Represented at the board's meeting of April 4 by attorney Robert Collins, Croteau would like to create the new building lots on half the acreage with the rest to remain as open space.
Most of the lots created 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. Those units would be located in the former stoneyard's existing office building to be renovated for the purpose.
When Collins appeared before the board, no changes had been made to Croteau's plans, so the attorney proceeded in listing exceptions to some of the town's zoning requirements called variances that he asked the board to consider in their review of the project.
Among the variances listed by Collins were:
* A traffic analysis which was judged unnecessary because the amount of traffic generated by the subdivision was not expected to exceed the more intensive stoneyard that had operated at the site for decades. Collins also pointed out that there were no line-of-sight problems where the access road met North Street.
* A landscape plan that was designed by a certified landscape architect.
* A development impact analysis.
* The need to show all activity within 500 feet of the area to be worked upon. The only item coming within the 500-foot mark was an existing home that was itself part of the project.
* The need to demonstrate that there is enough potable water on the site for planned wells. Because there was no problem with water quality or quantity over the years the property was operated as a stoneyard, there was no need for review, especially since the same issues would be considered by the Board of Health.
* A cut and fill analysis: According to Collins, as a former stoneyard, the property had been "pretty worked over," with no natural topography remaining. In any case, no radical fills or cuts were planned for the project. Engineer Stan Dillis in fact, said the design called for working around any existing terrain features anyway.
* Streetlights: Collins said that since Bluestone Drive would be a private road with underground utilities, streetlights would be replaced by post lanterns located at the end of each driveway.
* Curbing: Due to the design plan calling for low-impact development drainage, traditional granite curbing would get in the way.
* Sidewalks: Collins suggested that a simple footpath be created extending from the traffic circle to North Street.
* Setbacks for two of the planned homes be reduced to allow for more backyard space.
With the variances to consider, board members voted to continue the public hearing until their meeting of May 9.
Also at their meeting of April 4, board members considered a request, also by Collins, this time representing the Groton Electric Light Department, to allow the department to relocate its offices to an empty home adjacent to its current Station Avenue address.
According to Collins, allowing the department to use the house would obviate the need to rent a large temporary trailer that would be set up at the end of the street, making for a more unsightly and crowded situation.
As approved by the board late last year, GELD's new headquarters complex is to be placed on the northerly end of the department's Station Avenue property and constructed as two new buildings set adjacent to each other for easy access by administrators and line workers.
The office building section is to be a single floor of 5,000 square feet and to include a large conference room that could be used by other town boards and committees in addition to GELD staff.
The garage portion will be 20 feet high and designed to satisfy the needs of the department for the next 50 years and is to consist of five major vehicle bays and two smaller bays.
The complex will have dual access to Station Avenue with one on the northerly side giving on to some modest employee parking and the other intended for service vehicles and trucks only with enough off-street driveway area for them to turn around and back up into bays without using the street.
Collins needed to come to the board on the issue of using a neighboring house for temporary office space because it would require site-plan review due to its being outside the area where construction would be taking place.
But some members balked at the idea, including Chairman John Giger, who had questions about how the interior space would be arranged particularly with regard to accessibility.
Fellow board member Russell Burke also had reservations, saying that there were too many "moving parts" to the request that had to be considered and others not yet apparent.
Board member Scott Wilson stated that the use of a trailer had been expected as part of a construction site, so warnings of unsightliness seemed superfluous.
Other concerns raised included parking, storage of materials in and out of the building, and making sure that the building was used strictly as office space.
In the end, however, without a vote one way or the other, board members failed to provide Collins and GELD with any real direction on use of the house versus a trailer.
Should the department choose to use the house, they would likely have to file an official application with the Planning Board for site-plan review.
GELD officials have said they hope to break ground on the project this spring.