GROTON — In the run-up to Town Meeting Oct. 18, selectmen Tuesday night were given a draft copy of the warrant for review, which included a proposed new sign bylaw and preliminary action for the construction of a new headquarters for the Electric Light Department on Station Avenue.
Of the 25 articles listed on the warrant, four will deal with plans by the Electric Light Department to build itself a new garage and offices on land in the Station Avenue neighborhood, where town officials have long had plans for improvement.
The four articles come in the wake of the latest attempt to redevelop the area that petered out when the state’s economy slowed down and the Electric Light Commission decided against moving its headquarters to another part of town.
Since then, selectmen have cooperated with GELD officials to make sure the new department headquarters complex complements development plans for the neighborhood.
Part of those plans include reorienting the GELD’s garage and offices on the department’s existing piece of land, as well as two other lots currently privately owned.
Two of the warrant articles reviewed by selectmen Tuesday night deal with the purchase of those two lots from owners James and Shirley Downes, each less than an acre. One will authorize selectmen to acquire the land in the name of the Electric Light Department and the other will allow for the appropriation of the purchasing funds from GELD resources.
A third article will authorize GELD to borrow up to $2 million to help pay for construction of the new buildings, the cost of which is expected to be no more than $3.2 million.
A fourth article will allow for a swap of town-owned land for GELD property upon which the current garage is located.
Also on the warrant will be a proposal to amend the town’s current sign bylaw clearing up issues dealing with enforcement, oversight, size and shape of signs, temporary signs, and an appeals process.
Changes in the sign bylaw came after months of discussion among members of a Sign Subcommittee formed last year. Meanwhile, the Sign Committee had already completed its own version of a revised bylaw that attempted to update existing statutes by closing loopholes and altering elements that members felt did not work.
Areas of the bylaw that had presented the Sign Committee with special difficulty included temporary signage and rules governing sign design and placement at such commercial developments as the Shaw’s Plaza and Mill Run.
Other concerns included control over the size, shape, and color of temporary signs, a problem that was identified as having gone out of control in town; the definition of what exactly was meant by a “temporary sign;” the proliferation of political signs; enforcement; and simplifying the existing bylaw.
In refashioning the bylaw, subcommittee members managed to reduce its size from 22 pages to eight, and placed review responsibility under the town’s land-use office.
Also on the warrant for Town Meeting will be a number of measures addressing the difficulties some homeowners may have in paying property taxes due to the slumping economy. Articles giving deferrals based on hardship cases including those of active members of the military and amnesty for others allowing payment of back taxes without accrued interest.
The warrant will also contain a number of articles dealing with ongoing efforts to construct a wastewater treatment system in the Lost Lake neighborhood.
With the recent completion of an income survey and the expectation that results will confirm that the town qualifies for state and federal grant money, the articles will authorize selectmen to appropriate funds to pay for applications to the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program for the grants and for preliminary-design work for the new sewer system.
Other articles on the warrant would:
* Allow the town to hire and fund new management for the Country Club after the demise of the Country Club Authority.
* Allow the town to apply for a state grant to purchase 52 acres along Old Dunstable Road for conservation purposes.
* Authorize selectmen to petition the state Legislature to make changes in the law that will permit local governments to set insurance rates for municipal employees without the need to negotiate with unions.
* Authorize selectmen to sell or lease the former Tarbell School in West Groton.
Also Tuesday night, board members voted to approve an amendment to a conservation restriction placed on a 2,000- square-foot parcel at 21 Moose Trail owned by Thomas Wilson.
Although selectmen had previously allowed the sale of the land to Wilson in exchange for his paying its back taxes and keeping it clear for the passage of turtles from nearby wetlands, they were asked by the owner for an amendment to the CR that would allow him to count its area in calculations that would determine setbacks on his property needed to satisfy the town’s zoning bylaws.
Wilson attorney Ray Lyons told selectmen Tuesday night that an addition to Wilson’s home on the property would place him in technical violation of the CR by encroaching on its buffer zone.
Seeing the problem, selectmen voted to allow the amendment.
Board members also voted to ratify the appointment of Mark Dufell of Pepperell as the town’s new building inspector.
According to Town Manager Mark Haddad, Dufell will begin work Sept. 13 and will divide his time between Groton and Boxboro. After weeks of negotiations, the two towns had agreed to share the expense of a building inspector with a search ending only recently.
Haddad said that Dufell’s salary of $70,341 will be paid for evenly between Groton and Boxboro.
Selectmen also voted to ratify the appointment of two new full-time officers to the Police Department: Nicholas Beltz of Saugus and Rachael Mead of Lowell.
Introducing the two officers to selectmen Tuesday night, Chief Donald Palma said that with their appointment, his department will finally be up to “full strength” for the first time in his tenure.
Board members also appointed William Necie to the Conservation Commission to fill out the term left vacant by Ryan Lambert who resigned from the commission due to a pending move out of town.