By Pierre Comtois
GROTON — Members of the Station Avenue Redevelopment Committee met with members of the Planning Board to draft a bylaw, for review by town counsel, that would create a special overlay district for the neighborhood.
“We’re trying to understand what our questions are for town counsel,” said committee Chairman Scott Wilson.
One concern raised by the committee involves the seating capacity for a new restaurant, proposed by developer Capstone Properties as the anchor establishment for the whole Station Avenue project.
Wastewater capacity reserved for the project prevented those attending the July 18 meeting from being able to make an accurate prediction on the number of seats that would be allowed for the restaurant. Also unknown was how many parking spaces could be required for the business.
Another concern was the height to which buildings planned for the project could be constructed. According to Capstone representative David Hamilton, it was fine to designate a maximum height for buildings. But what if a few extra feet were needed to, for example, squeeze in ventilation equipment that is normally situated above the top floor of most new buildings?
Still another question concerned the maximum amount of lot coverage that buildings would be allowed to use within the new district. It was agreed that a certain amount of landscaping was desirable, perhaps even reserving a small amount of open space for each residential unit, but it was also felt that no lot should be completely covered.
Other concerns included parking in general, the number of affordable housing units to be created, and even how future town planners would interpret the intentions of the committee when the amendment language was voted on.
“This is an area where we should be thinking about the quality of the environment rather than the quantity of the development,” said Redevelopment Committee member Daniel Barton.
“What we’re really looking for is a low-impact development,” said planning administrator Michelle Collette. The town is promoting new regulations that would require developers to incorporate a number of smaller drainage systems, scattered over large impervious surfaces, to collect runoff and direct it to a single, large detention basin.
The Station Avenue neighborhood is adjacent to a large, environmentally-sensitive wetland.
The committee was forced back to the drawing board over plans for the redevelopment of Station Avenue after an earlier design plan was nixed by the Groton Electric Light Department and withdrawn from consideration by residents at last spring’s town meeting.
Since then, the committee has gone back to basics, including studying traffic patterns in the neighborhood and its impact on local residents. The committee has also reworked the language of the proposed overlay district, laying out the town’s goals and values for Station Avenue, while leaving construction details open to allow more flexibility for the developer.
A general master plan for the entire Station Avenue area was considered, instead of a more specific design plan, as the underlying basis for the rezoning amendment.
“Logic and legality should be our guiding principals,” said Wilson of the language that will be vetted by the town’s legal counsel.
The committee is scheduled to meet again on Aug. 8, when members will meet with consultant Peter Flinker.