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Following approval, planner calls Boynton Meadows ‘far from ideal’

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GROTON — The end was somewhat anticlimactic Thursday night as the Planning Board voted unanimously to approve a major public/private housing project called Boynton Meadows that is to be situated in a prominent location downtown.

According to developer Robert France, with the final hurdle completed, he hopes to break ground on the 18-unit project early next spring or weather-permitting, late winter of next year.

The Boynton Meadows project, which is to be located at 134 Main St., had been under review by the town’s various land use boards including the Conservation Commission, Historic District Commission, and the Planning Board for months before last week’s 5-0 decision.

Boynton Meadows is to include three affordable housing units among 18 planned, a feature that first drew the attention of the selectmen and the interest of the Affordable Housing Trust. Arrangement was made to loan developer Robert France $412,000 in return for the creation of the affordables.

Preliminary designs for the buildings themselves will follow the classic lines of many older homes in town with articulation designed to make the duplexes and triplexes look less like townhouses and more like single-family dwellings.

Planning Board members had voted to close the public hearing portion of the review process at their meeting of Dec. 8 and concentrated Dec. 15 on a draft of conditions drawn up by planning administrator Michelle Collette.

Although board members had little to say about the general conditions governing how construction of the project is to be conducted, they did take time to consider a number of waivers to the town’s zoning bylaws as requested by the developer.

Drawing the most attention was a waiver to a portion of the Town Center Overlay District that required no residential unit exceed 2,000 square feet.

Reminding fellow board members of their expressed fear of buildings at the site becoming “too massive,” Raymond Capes said those 2 bedroom units that exceeded the 2,000 square foot limit were “not justified.”

Other board members agreed and voted to grant the waiver to units that had three bedrooms but not for those with less.

Other waivers approved included the number of on-street parking spaces at 20, allowing the width of the driveway to remain at 18 feet instead of 24 feet, use of granite curbing and a number of drainage issues that had been preapproved by the Highway Department.

Board members Carolyn Perkins, Jason Parent, Russell Burke, and Capes were all present at the Dec. 15 meeting with fellow member George Barringer able to take part remotely due to recent changes in the state’s Open Meeting Law.

From London, Barringer hailed the project but called it “far from ideal.”

“But it’s clear to me it’s the best we can do for this property at this time,” Barringer said, adding that the alternative, a Chapter 40B project that could have seen as many as 28 units built on the same site, might have been pursued. “(Boynton Meadows) does capture the general ideals of the Town Center Overlay District.”

Following Barringer’s comments, the board voted in favor of approving the conditions and the project itself.

“I’m excited that the town has supported the project all the way through and feel that the Planning Board made some good recommendations,” said France following the decision. “I’m looking forward now to building the project.”

France said that he hoped to submit construction design plans for review by the building inspector soon and with building permit in hand, begin work in the spring.

The developer said that he expects to proceed with a phased construction plan with an existing retail building ready to be occupied by early summer of 2012 and the first residential units by the fall. Ongoing occupation of residential units will be market driven so it may take some time for all of them to be completed.

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