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Technicality sticking point in Brooks Orchard proposal


GROTON — A technicality in the town bylaws prevented the Planning Board from coming to a final decision on a request by the Groton Land Foundation to develop property located off Martins Pond Road.

At issue is the question of access to the land that the foundation plans to subdivide into four separate lots, with a shared driveway leading from Orchard Lane. The foundation wants a special permit from the board to proceed.

Although friendly to the idea of the project, which would include three building lots of 10 acres, 11.5 acres and 33 acres, each with the balance reserved as conservation land, members of the board balked at the notion of the shared driveway.

The sticking point, said project engineer Robert Pine, is a requirement in the town’s zoning bylaws that a shared driveway must have enough frontage on a main road, plus give access to parking on individual lots. But one of the four lots proposed for Brooks Orchard is not a building lot but is instead controlled by the Water Department as the site of a water storage tank.

The quandary for board members was whether to approve a shared driveway in which one of the lots accessed, that of the Water Department, did not include adequate parking — a need that was practically nonexistent as the site is only visited occasionally by water crews.

Returning before the board at its Jan. 11 meeting, Pine submitted a counter-proposal aimed at easing the burden on the shared driveway by allowing creation of a separate driveway entrance for the lot closest to Orchard Lane and having only the remaining three lots serviced by the shared driveway.

Although Water Superintendent Thomas Orcutt assured members that there would be enough room at the water tank site for emergency vehicles to maneuver as demanded by the town’s fire chief, board members remained wary of the new proposal.

When asked if there was any substantial difference between what his client was proposing for Brooks Orchard and an existing shared driveway on Gibbet Hill that included access not only to a water storage tank but also a cell tower and a newly-built home, Pine said there was not.

Asked by resident Steve Webber why such a thing had been allowed at the Gibbet Hill site with less debate than for the Brooks Orchard site, board members had little to say.

In the end, planners voted unanimously to approve Brooks Orchard as a flexible development in which 190 acres would be divided into three potential house lots plus the water storage tank site, and a parcel to be retained as conservation land.

That decision, said Pine, would allow his client to begin marketing the building lots while awaiting a final resolution of the shared driveway proposal.

In delaying a decision on the shared driveway, the board voted to close the public hearing, thereby preventing the receipt of any more information on the matter. Members scheduled their meeting of Jan. 18 for a final vote.

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