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Clover Farm Market agrees to limited tables and seating


GROTON — A compromise has been reached between the Board of Health (BOH) and a local business owner that will allow her store to remain open and to continue as a vital component of a mini-revival of West Groton.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we can find a better solution than this,” said Janice Hurst of the vote taken at the board’s meeting of Dec. 1. “I hope that this is not the end and that we can continue to look for a better way, such as relating to septic issues, etc. This is a tough business anyway and this is a tough economy, so not being able to have people sit down to eat here will hurt my business.”

Hurst, the owner of the Clover Farm Market, ran afoul of the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, the town’s health agent, when one of its inspectors visited her store in West Groton earlier in the year.

Following the visit, Hurst was cited for violating state health codes, particularly the Title 5 septic requirements. In particular, the health agent noted an expanded menu and the presence of tables and seating in the store, which invited customers to have their meals inside the store.

Seating was not allowed under the permit Hurst signed prior to opening the store and was pivotal in determining the burden placed on the establishment’s limited septic capacity.

However, at a public hearing held Nov. 3, at which scores of supporters packed the meeting room, Hurst told the Board of Health that if the judgment of the health agent was allowed to stand, the elimination of seating would severely handicap her ability to maintain sales and keep the store open.

Acknowledging the special place the store held in the West Groton community, members of the BOH were open to a compromise solution and when the public hearing was reconvened on Dec. 1, they voted in favor of a memorandum of understanding that struck a balance between the store’s needs and the public interest.

Among the conditions listed in the memorandum were those crucial to Hurst’s ability to keep her store a viable commercial enterprise, including being allowed to retain a take-out service with a variable menu within the general parameters as set out in its original permit application. If any changes are contemplated, they must be get past the Nashoba Boards of Health prior to being implemented.

Serving food for consumption on the premises will be forbidden and to further discourage it, no more than 12 chairs are to be allowed in the store and none within 15 feet of the food service/preparation area. Further, any tables in the store can only be used for display purposes and not left empty to invite sit-down eating.

All food and drink sold at the store shall be “suitably wrapped or in an appropriate container for take away” and “food or drink shall not be served at Clover Farm Market events hosted on the premises.”

Other conditions include keeping records of all sewage disposal system pumping and maintenance and whatever else may be required under the state’s Title 5 regulations.

“I think it’s difficult for the board,” Hurst said of the decision-making process. “I think they want to help small businesses but have to do it in a way that is consistent and can stand up to scrutiny. I think they did that with this agreement. They did a very good job of coming to a compromise between what they were being told by Nashoba and what they were being told by the public.

“I still maintain that what I have been doing is not a change of use,” Hurst continued. “I don’t know if that part of it is the board’s ruling or not, but I do not see anything I’m doing as a change of use that should result in something like a change in a septic system that is working fine. We’ll continue on as a community market. We have no hidden agenda in what we’re doing. We’re not trying to become a restaurant or anything else. We just want to continue with what we started.”

The memorandum of understanding was hand-delivered to Hurst by the chairman of the Board of Health and, with her signature, its conditions will become effective Jan. 3.