AYER — Though extensive renovations are expected to take place on the Nashoba Valley Medical Center campus, the only thing before the Planning Board are specs for a one-story office building and expanded roadside parking.
The designs call for a 9,000-square-foot office building on the southern end of the property and another 72 parking spaces between the hospital’s front parking lot and the road.
The specs were presented by GPR consultant Cal Goldsmith, who was seeking site plan approval.
The hospital has already announced its intent to add significantly larger medical and office facilities at the site, but Goldsmith termed this project separate.
Instead of seeking approval for that expansion piecemeal, he claimed the hospital has a pressing need for office space to attract new doctors and additional parking was needed to offset spaces that will be lost when the expansion begins.
“There is a pressing need for this now,” he said. “They’re not just trying to hit you with a lot of small buildings.”
The office building would house four or five offices and would have 46 parking spaces of its own. It would sit closer to the road than the existing medical building and would be 45 feet from the lot line at its closest point.
The board responded to Goldsmith’s presentation by invoking the consultant bylaw, which allows its professionals to review the documents at the applicant’s expense.
Chairman Elizabeth Hughes offered several points of feedback as well before the hearing was continued until September.
“My concern is you’re moving parking closer to the road,” she said. “That’s generally not something I’m fond of.”
Hughes advised the board may ask for assurance that the front lot would be removed once the construction is complete. She also wanted more information about rear lighting and heating/air conditioning of the building, to ensure it wouldn’t be a nuisance to neighbors on Madigan Lane.
Walter Miska was the only speaker in attendance who identified himself as a Madigan Lane resident. His concerns centered on drainage that comes off hospital property and ends up near his driveway.
The drainage question spoke to much of the property that was outside the scope of the current project, said Hughes, though it wouldn’t be allowed to make the issue worse.
In general, a full meeting room spoke to large public interest in the project, but Hughes asked that questions be limited to what’s currently under review.
“There will be an appropriate time and place to address questions about the redevelopment of the campus,” she said.
There were several neighbors in attendance from Pacer Way, in Groton, who are also concerned about how the nearby expansion could affect their neighborhood.
On a related topic, resident Patrick Hughes raised questions about the site plan review. He said the hospital district created by town meeting in May was not official yet because it had not been endorsed by the attorney general’s office.
The plans presented differed from what was shown at town meeting, he said, and such “spot zoning” is typically attached to specific plans so it doesn’t get out of control. Overall, he suggested town counsel be consulted on the legality of those questions.
It was zoning, not site plans, that were adopted by town meeting, said Elizabeth Hughes. She pointed out that legal consultation wasn’t necessary.
“If the attorney general approves that zoning, the property owner has the right to build what’s allowed there. I don’t need legal counsel to tell me that,” she said.
The hospital is currently a grandfathered structure in a residential district.
Goldsmith re-iterated the office building was stand-alone and was separate from the hospital expansion
Groton neighbor Greg Galley noted that initial plans for the hospital expansion called for a four-story office building and asked how that fit in with this project.
Goldsmith said he was not privy to the hospital expansion plan, which was being handled by another consultant.
He did, however, vouch for the hospital being a good neighbor that would be willing to speak with them about the expansion plans as they come together.