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Planning Board reviews hospital district, other projects

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AYER — One of three public hearings held by the Planning Board was to complete review of two articles being proposed for the May 8 town meeting by Nashoba Valley Medical Center.

The zoning articles would establish health care service and wireless districts at the hospital on Old Groton Road. The articles were represented by interim hospital CEO Steven Roach and attorney Christopher Milton.

Though the facility has plans to expand, its representatives said the district would allow a variety of uses that are currently grandfathered at the location, which is zoned residential. The district would also allow for a six-level hospital with a maximum height of 75 feet.

The height maximum was originally 90 feet, but Milton said the fire chief put 75 as the maximum that current equipment could handle. Safety aside, the board previously had reservations about the facility looming over its neighbors. That concerns was addressed by the requirement that additional property line setbacks be assessed for each floor past the first. The setbacks are 30 yards in front and 20 on all other sides.

The wireless district article would allow for one 12-foot antenna to be added to property, with the condition it be used solely for purposes related to the building’s medical mission.

There was originally a third article for a lighted sign by the roadside, but Milton said that was dropped and would be revisited when it came time to permit expansions.

”There are signage provisions and we have to work within those,” he said.

The board had expressed reservations with the 8-by-12-foot sign specifications at the previous meeting.

Most of the concerns this time came from neighbors out of Groton. Abutter Bruce Kreis asked why he hadn’t been notified of the hearing. He said it looked like the board was giving a blank check to a facility within a residential zone.

It was just the opposite, board member Elizabeth Hughes said. The district would clearly define what’s allowed there.

Alternately, she said the hospital could seek variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals where they could ask for whatever they wanted and have it be judged on whether it would be detrimental to the neighborhood.

”This article actually limits it,” she said.

Abutter notification would come if a site plan review hearing were held, said board Chairman William Oelfke.

Roach added that the hospital is planning a series of breakfasts with the abutters to explain its plans.

Groton resident Gregg Ganley also had concerns including why the new hospital would be much larger with only three additional beds.

Milton said rooms are currently shared and that each bed has 125 square feet, both of which are insufficient. He said the newer design is targeting private rooms with 250 square feet apiece.

Those reservations aside, strong support for the hospital was voiced by the handful of residents in the room, and the board endorsed the articles by a 4-0 vote.

In other news, the board had a preliminary discussion about an new accessory building at Lorden Oil on Fitchburg Road with company owner Ted Lorden and his consultant, Steven Mullaney.

The structure would be used primarily as a garage. It would be located to the west of the current building in an area currently used for storage tanks. Mullaney said the building was in part as a security measure for the oil tankers, and would have an appearance that would complement the existing building.

The designs would be forthcoming shortly, Mullaney said.

”We’ll be before the board for site plan approval at the next meeting,” he said.

The board scheduled the public hearing for May 4.

The board also continued an approval not required (ANR) subdivision hearing for a parcel that abuts the Nashoba Park assisted living facility on Winthrop Avenue.

The client for attorney Thomas Gibbons had wanted to subdivide the parcel into halves, but an ANR determination for the project been held up by concerns from the board about access to the rear parcel. The sole access way has a fence running down its center, which results in a paved width of 10 to 12 feet access.

Gibbons said his client had secured an agreement with Nashoba Park to remove the fence, which would widen the access way to 22 feet, which the board deemed acceptable.

Gibbons said the appropriate paperwork would before them shortly.

The board also approved plans from National Grid that would improve firefighting apparatus for the electrical station on Radisson Road. The facility currently relies on foam, but the plans would add a water line that could be used during emergencies.

The plan was approve unanimously after short discussion.

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