GROTON -- A proposal to add a 100-seat restaurant to the Boynton Meadows subdivision being constructed off Main Street met resistance when residents and a local businessman raised objections.
The questions were raised at a Planning Board meeting Thursday when a public hearing was called to consider a request by developer Robert France for an amendment to the project's special permit. It would allow for a restaurant in the basement level of a building at the entrance to the property.
According to the special permit awarded France by the Planning Board, Boynton Meadows is to include three affordable-housing units among 18 planned, as well as some commercial establishments.
Those businesses would be located in a building that needs to be renovated. When completed, it is expected to host a number of businesses, including Bliss Bakery, Buddha Nest Yoga, an optometrist, and a dentist's office.
But as France informed members at a meeting Feb. 14, alterations in construction of the building made it possible to expand the square footage of the basement-level commercial space so that an area that had been reserved for a 26-seat restaurant can now accommodate 100.
France assured members that, according to his calculations, even with the increased seating, there will be enough sewer capacity for the project due to a reduction in the number of bedrooms in some of the housing units.
Returning before the board Thursday, the developer went into more detail about parking requirements for the restaurant, saying that the extra spaces would be made up by sharing spaces with other businesses in the building, satellite parking would be offered by nearby Lawrence Academy, and valet parking in which customers' vehicles would be driven to a distant location and retrieved later.
The parking plan, concluded France, would be made "in accordance with the downtown overlay district."
But France's assurances did not satisfy some at the public hearing, including one neighbor who felt there would not be enough spaces along Main Street to accommodate the restaurant's needs.
"I personally feel that the project is too big for that property," she said.
"We're actually under the required density for that property," countered France.
But more spirited opposition was registered by attorney Aaron Lanza, who represented neighboring businessman George Pergantis, who is also planning to open a restaurant on Main Street.
Lanza said his client objected to the proposal based on the burden it would place on surrounding businesses, including his own, that depend on a limited number of parking spaces along Main Street.
Reminding the board that according to the zoning bylaws, a 100-seat restaurant required at least 55 parking spaces, Lanza claimed that approving the amendment would have an "adverse effect" on the downtown area, something that was expressly forbidden by the bylaw.
Board Chairman John Giger, however, pointed out that under the downtown overlay district, there were allowances that could be made to accommodate a mix of uses.
Lanza, however, insisted that those allowances would have no effect on the objections raised warning that the proposal, if approved, would cause the project to "bust out at the seams" and place an "unfair burden" on other businesses downtown.
"I think that only looking at the negative aspects of this business is narrow thinking," observed board member Timothy Svarczkopf.
France reminded the board that as part of the original understanding for the project, an effort was to be made to include commercial tenants that could provide services to residents of the subdivision while helping out other businesses downtown. A purpose he felt the restaurant would fulfill.
"I see it as a benefit," concluded France.
Awaiting more details on the proposed parking scheme as well as signed agreements from those businesses willing to share parking spaces, board members voted to continue the hearing until their meeting May 23.