GROTON — Possible activity at the former site of the Groton Jade Restaurant located at the Four Corners part of town continued to percolate last week as representatives of owner Joseph Wong met with the Planning Board to discuss modifications to a special permit first issued a number of years ago.
Representing Wong before the board at its meeting May 26 was Douglas Hartnett, who unveiled a new site plan for the 4.5-acre property that has been vacant since the Groton Jade was demolished to make room for improvements to the intersection of Route 119 and Sandy Pond Road.
According to Hartnett, a sluggish economy and real-estate market has forced his client to scale back his original plan, which was to have featured a number of buildings comprising offices, a bank, a Dunkin’ Donuts and a new Chinese restaurant.
A more modest scenario, which represented the changes to the original conditions of the special permit, was now in the cards with the number of buildings reduced to three but retaining a total amount of commercial space of 17,000 square feet.
The resulting cutback, said Hartnett, would save the developer money in building costs, parking spaces, septic requirements, and stormwater maintenance.
Of the three buildings to be constructed, one would be comprised of 7,500 square feet, a second of 7,000 square feet, and a third of 3,200 square feet.
When asked, Hartnett declined to go into too much detail regarding each building on the grounds that they would depend on who the tenants would be and the requirements of their businesses. Currently, no tenants have yet committed to the project.
The developer first signaled that he was still interested in improving the site, known as Crossroads Plaza, at a meeting of the board held last summer when he asked for an extension of the special permit previously awarded him.
Among the concerns raised about the project by board members last week were traffic, architectural design of the buildings, the height of a retaining wall at the rear of the site, a possible reduction of interior planting, snow storage, lighting, signage, and possible waivers to local zoning bylaws.
Also on the minds of board members was that of parking, most of which the plan as presented last week seemed to indicate would be located in front of the buildings rather than in back.
Placing parking out of sight of the roadway was an important feature of the proposal to town officials as the Four Corners is considered a gateway entrance to Groton.
“The way the parking is set up now in front is a nonstarter,” board member Russell Burke warned Hartnett.
With the board’s concerns duly noted by the applicant, the public hearing was continued until June 30.
Also last week, attorney Robert Collins met with the board to ask members to consider parking issues that are likely to arise during the approval process for the new campus of Thomas More College that is to rise on property located off Old Ayer Road.
According to Collins, after a number of visits to the school’s current campus in Merrimack, N.H., very few parking spaces seemed to be required, even with the majority of its student body living on the grounds.
The school, observed Collins, did not appear to be “automotive intensive.”
Collins guessed that the school would require no more than “three dozen” parking spaces, the same number it has now in New Hampshire.
The attorney reminded the board that although the town has had experience with private schools in town, none of them were of the college level and that parking requirements would be somewhat different.
In addition, Collins also noted that the college expected to expand in the future to about triple its current size when between 75 to 90 parking spaces may eventually be required.
Board members raised questions about community outreach and programs at the school as well as graduation ceremonies which might demand more parking than was immediately needed for student use.
Suggesting that Collins contact other colleges of similar size to find out how much parking spaces they needed, the board agreed to meet again on the issue at a future date.
Once approval of its building plans has been secured, Thomas More is likely to start with construction of several buildings including those for dormitories and classrooms perhaps done in the same colonial Williamsburg style as its New Hampshire campus.
An existing home at the site will be converted into administrative office space while a barn may be turned into a library.
Last week, the board also voted to waive a site plan review for New England Nails represented at last week’s meeting by Hung Nguyen. The new salon will replace a former doctor’s office at the 306 Main St. location and shares parking at the site with a neighboring bank. Once the question of adequate parking was addressed to their satisfaction, board members had little trouble coming to their decision to waive site plan review for the new business.