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GROTON — In a formal unveiling last week, Groton Electric Light Department officials met with the newly-established Design Review Committee to begin the earliest steps toward site plan approval for the department’s new depot on Station Avenue.

As presented by GELD manager Kevin Kelly at the DRC’s meeting of Aug. 10, the department’s current office building and garage will be demolished and replaced by a pair of new buildings.

“We’re finally getting to critical mass with our plan,” said Kelley of the long talked about project.

To be placed on the north end of GELD’s Station Avenue property, the two new buildings are to be set adjacent to each other for easy access by administrators and line workers.

The office building itself is to be a single floor of 5,000 square feet and to include a large conference room that could be used by other town boards and committees in addition to GELD staff.

The garage portion, said Kelley, will be 20 feet in height and designed to satisfy the needs of the department for the next 50 years and is to consist of five major vehicle bays and two smaller bays.

The complex will have dual access to Station Avenue with the one on the north side providing employee parking and the other intended for service vehicles and trucks only with enough off street driveway area for them to turn around and back up into bays without using the street.

The Electric Light Commission finally decided to build its new headquarters on its Station Avenue property after other sites were found to be inadequate.

The decision conflicted with the town’s own plans to redevelop Station Avenue for mixed residential/commercial use once GELD had moved from its existing buildings even to the extent of altering the zoning of the neighborhood to make it possible.

Those plans have since been reduced somewhat including a pending decision to build a new Center Fire Station on GELD’s Station Avenue land to be declared as surplus once the design and location of the department’s new complex has been finalized.

At last week’s preliminary review by the DRC, concerns about the plan raised by members included orientation of the garage bays facing the rail trail, the office building being restricted to a single floor instead of two, the size of the buildings, and the possible need for waivers from local zoning.

Daniel Barton, who is also a member of the Historic District Commission, noted that the proposed construction of the two buildings presented an opportunity to design structures that could not only fit within the town’s historic legacy, but also be a credit to future historic preservation.

Last week’s hearing was only the first step in what promises to be a lengthy review process not only by the DRC but other land use boards as well. A process that could include many changes to the final plan.

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