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Prager: Lost Lake development would set bad precedent

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

GROTON — A local developer was forced to change his plans after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) expressed wariness over a proposal made up of two components located on different streets.

“I have a real problem with it,” said board member Jay Prager. “It would create a very bad precedent for this town.”

At issue was a proposal by developer Donald Haberman to build at two separate locations within the Lost Lake neighborhood.

In his latest application, Haberman proposed building four single-family homes on contiguous lots located along Tavern Road, plus a “quadruplex” of another four units located off Lost Lake Drive.

Half the units would be affordable and reserved for owners age 55 or older, with all of the quadruplex units to be sold at below market rates.

The number of buildings to be constructed, said Haberman attorney Robert Collins, was driven by the town’s zoning bylaw which requires that a single-family home must be located on a lot at least 5,000 square feet in area. According to Collins, the lots upon which his client proposed to build averaged 17,075 square feet. The quadruplex lot off Lost Lake Road comes in at 20,500 square feet.

“The overall density is considerably less than the bylaw requires,” noted Collins of the latest plan.

Collins said that, by Groton real estate standards, the over 55 units are “affordable” at $300,000.

“I do believe this is something worth considering,” Collins said of the plan, submitted at the ZBA’s Nov. 14 meeting.

Haberman came before the board with the plan after withdrawing an earlier version. Local residents had objected to that plan on grounds that the density of the project was not in keeping with the character of their neighborhood. In that version, the developer had proposed siting three single homes and a three-unit structure at the Tavern Road location.

The latest version of the plan, however, failed to win the support of board members who disagreed with Collins that the project was connected. Board members interpreted the bylaw, upon which the attorney had based his argument for the plan, as suggesting that all of a project’s building lots must be contiguous.

Prager expressed a fear that approving the plan as presented last week would set a precedent that not all building projects need to be contiguous.

Fellow board member Chase Duffy suggested that if such a plan were approved, it could result in a “patchwork” of projects all over town.

Collins attempted to defend the proposal by citing a precedent from the early 1980s, in which the separated lot was directly across the street from the main site of the project and not “down the street and around the corner” as charged by Prager.

With the board obviously uncomfortable with the proposal as it stood, Collins then offered an alternative, suggesting that a quadruplex be located at the Lost Lake Drive site with two market-rate units and two affordables.

A group of three single-family homes and a triplex of three affordable units would be built off Tavern Road.

Two separate applications for special permits would be filed for each location, with the Lost Lake Drive project to be considered first.

After board members said they wanted to view the Lost Lake Drive property firsthand, the ZBA voted to continue the public hearing until its meeting of Dec. 19, when the two applications will be considered separately.