GROTON -- Under pressure to find more space for the town's burgeoning programs of organized sports, officials continue to look for land or failing that, upgrade existing space to maximize use.
Such is the case in West Groton where Parks Commissioners would like to make improvements to Cutler Field where now only a pair of under-utilized baseball fields and a basketball court exist.
To that end, commissioners hope to use part of a $50,000 spending request listed as an article on the warrant for fall Town Meeting scheduled for later this month.
The request will be earmarked for a number of small projects among the town's various fields and commons such as replacement of the flagpole at Firemen's Common, fence rails at the Town Common and Hazel Grove, and the purchase of solar compacting trash cans for the Hanson Playground. But the greater share of the funds will likely be used for improvements at Cutler Field.
According to Parks Commissioner John Strauss, the growing popularity of lacrosse and soccer versus the decline of interest in baseball necessitated a search for more space. The underutilized Cutler located along Townsend Road was earmarked for appropriate upgrades.
But though plans called for some sprucing up of the 7-8 acre field space, most of the attention will be focused on the parking area where spaces for 35 vehicles will be expanded to 50 or so.
Seeking support from the town's land use boards for the project, Strauss appeared before the Planning Board Oct. 3 to discuss a site plan for the Cutler improvements ahead of a formal special permit application for the project.
Concerns raised by board members included lighting, pedestrian access, tree removal, variances required, paving, drainage and parking.
Parking issues seemed to be uppermost in board members' minds regarding the exact number to be created and the number of handicapped spaces required. The board was also wary of leaving the parking area unpaved fearing erosion would leave large holes and puddles.
"I don't think the board wants to see this turn into a mega project but we want to see more details on how these issues are going to be addressed," said Chairman John Giger.
Urging Strauss to seek out the advice of DPW Director Tom Delaney on how best to proceed with the project and save money at the same time, the board scheduled its meeting of Nov. 7 to meet again with Strauss when plans have been firmed up.
Also located off Townsend Road is the Academy Hill subdivision project of which nearly two thirds of its planned 94 housing units have been constructed.
Developer George Gallagher updated members about progress at the site, which included completion of six affordable units out of 10 planned.
Gallagher reported that the last home approved for construction was under a purchase-and-sale agreement. When the sixth affordable unit is finished after that, he and partner Bruce Wheeler will be ready to approach the town for a building permit that would allow them to continue with their construction schedule.
"We're feeling much better about the economy," said Gallagher.
Gallagher noted good progress on the replacement of a culvert located beneath the access road leading into the project.
Blockage at the entrance of the tunnel beneath Cherry Tree Lane occurred after the culvert had been set too high for the water in the stream to flow directly through to the other side of the road.
Review of design plans revealed that initial topographical elevations for the land over which the access road passed were overestimated by as much as 30 inches above grade or 2.5 feet, causing the problem.
In the case of the culvert, sticking to the letter of the design plan approved by the Planning Board resulted in the single piece enclosure being placed over two feet higher than the stream bed.
Since then, the Planning Board had asked that the situation be corrected with Gallagher reporting that work on the new culvert was almost finished.