GROTON — Unconvinced with arguments that there was no way off-street space could be found for handicapped parking at the Groton Grange at 80 Champney St., the Planning Board nevertheless voted at its July 1 meeting to approve a plan to make the historic building itself handicapped accessible.
The decision allows the Grange to proceed with improvements that include a ramp leading to the front entrance, a chairlift from the ground floor to the second floor, restroom alterations, and a second ramp and walkway leading from a rear entrance.
The improvements are in addition to others for which the Grange has received $137,000 from the town’s Community Preservation Fund. That work will include repairs to the roof, foundation, exterior, doorways and windows.
Questions over handicapped parking led to the board’s continuation of the discussion from its June 24 meeting to July 1. Members were concerned that handicapped accessibility would be incomplete without a reserved parking space.
At the June 24 meeting, attorney Ray Lyons presented the Grange’s case that there was no room on the small lot where the hall is located. On one side, a tree made the area too narrow and on the other, pavement would rob the lot of the little green space it has.
Furthermore, he said, any offstreet space would be dangerous because of limited sight lines, cars parked along Champney Street, and a low hill that would prevent oncoming drivers from seeing cars backing out of the property.
Lyons presented the same arguments at the July 1 meeting but suggested that signage and blue paint on the curbing in front of the hall could be used to designate the space in front of the building as reserved for handicapped use.
Board members found that solution unsatisfactory as did the Department of Public Works.
Lyons reminded the board that, according to law, the Grange was not required to create any off-street parking.
In any case, he said, Grange members did not have the money to pay for such a space and that if they were ordered to do so, the whole renovation project would have to be canceled.
Board member George Barringer remained unconvinced.
“I feel pretty confident that if the Grange wants to do handicapped parking, it can find the place to do it,” he said.
After questioning why the board had bothered to discuss the issue if there was no money for parking, board Chairman Timothy Hess called for a vote, which went 4-1 to approve the renovation, with only Barringer in opposition.
Also at the July 1 meeting, a public hearing on the extension of a special permit awarded to the owners of Crossroads Plaza was canceled at the request of the applicant.
Located across from the Shaw’s supermarket at Four Corners, Crossroads Plaza had been the location of the Groton Jade Chinese Restaurant before it was demolished to make way for improvements to the intersection of Boston and Sandy Pond roads.
The special permit awarded to owner Joseph Wong expired last month. He notified Planning Administrator Michelle Collette of his intention to renew it for another two years. His plans consisted of a number of free-standing buildings to be located over 4.5 acres, including a bank, convenience store, retail outlets, a bagel shop, and a new restaurant to replace the Groton Jade.