GROTON — Confusion was still the order of the day at last week’s Planning Board meeting when restaurateur George Pergantis failed to adequately define his proposal to reopen a building on his Main Street property as either a restaurant or a function hall.
The question was one that had been raised at the board’s meeting of May 3 with the expectation of clarification at the May 24 meeting, but as it was then, so things remained as Pergantis and his engineer, Jeffrey Brem, were unable to agree on the number of seats planned for the new seafood restaurant.
The fissure became apparent when Brem responded to a question saying that the new restaurant would seat102 people and moments later, his client talked of 165 counting both the restaurant and function hall portions of the planned establishment.
Pointing out the problem, board chairman Russell Burke noted that in his application, Pergantis mentioned only a restaurant being proposed.
In reply, Brem said that the building in question, the former carriage house that had been associated with the Groton Inn which burned down last year, had already been used as a function hall implying that a change in use need not have been mentioned.
Burke immediately countered that the board did not base its review of an application on what a building had been used for before, but only on what was being specifically proposed, which, in the case before them, was a restaurant with no mention of a function hall.
“This is not a lemonade stand,” said Burke, insisting that the letter of the town’s bylaws should be followed in the case of such an ambitious project.
At that point, Pergantis supporter Daniel Monroe, a resident of Martins Pond Road, rose to defend his friend, expressing confusion as to why Pergantis was encountering such resistance from the board.
“I’ve never heard such horseshit before,” said Monroe. “I’ve never heard such anti-business rhetoric in my life.”
In defense of the board, Burke replied that “All of the ‘garbage’ we’ve been dealing with is in the code.”
At that point, the confusion over seating and restaurant versus function hall only underlined Burke’s comments on the issue.
Last week’s public hearing began well with Brem outlining changes made to a site plan for the new restaurant including those for parking and landscaping.
Other concerns raised by board members involved the condition of a gravel driveway on the property, parking for residents of a pair of apartment buildings, the location of a dumpster, and unauthorized work that continued to be performed on the property.
Drawing the attention of Burke was the issue of lighting on the property with questions relating to the height of existing poles and the wattage to be used.
“Preparation of a photometric plan is not too much to ask,” said Burke. “I don’t think that the look of the lights is the one that our lighting standards define.”
Burke also expressed concern that too many variations on the town’s zoning bylaws were being asked for by the applicant.
“I’m not inclined to do changes on the fly,” said Burke of the piecemeal approach.
But despite lingering questions on such details as lighting and parking, board members were most concerned about whether what was being proposed by Pergantis was a restaurant and/or a function hall.
Because that issue was far from being clear, Planning Administrator Michelle Collette advised that the best thing to do was for Pergantis to withdraw his application without prejudice and to resubmit with clear language on what functions were intended for the new restaurant.
“I think it would be the cleaner approach,” agreed Burke.
Not unfriendly to the suggestion, Brem nevertheless asked that action wait until he could get some legal advice on the move.
Complying with the engineer’s request, board members voted to continue the public hearing until its meeting of June 14.