GROTON — Developers of a proposed Hindu temple to be located on land off Boston Road told members of the Planning Board that they intended to submit a formal application for site plan review as soon as Feb. 24.
The news came at a board meeting of Feb. 20 at which members met with developer New England Shirdi Sai Parivaar Inc. (NESSP) at a pre-submission review.
The review is a tool by which the board is given an idea of what a particular project might entail and allow the potential applicant a chance to find out what the board’s concerns might be.
Representing NESSP at the meeting was engineer Ian Ruben, who showed board members a site plan for the temple grounds that differed little from one on display at a previous hearing in April of 2013.
According to the site plan presented at the Feb. 20 meeting, the main temple building is to consist of two floors that will meet the height requirement in the town’s zoning bylaws and a trio of spires with a central spire taller than the two that flank it.
Although planners did not say how high the central spire would be, the subject of height was brought up by board member Russell Burke when it appeared that developers were not going to mention it.
Russell’s comments were preceded by remarks made by NESSP attorney Benjamin Tymann, who asked board members if they were familiar with the law relating to the permitting of nonprofit structures such as houses of worship.
Board Chairman John Giger told Tymann that the board was familiar with reviewing the building plans of nonprofits due to having local private schools Lawrence Academy and the Groton School before them many times in the past.
It was then that Burke brought up the subject of the height of the proposed spire, noting that the building inspector might have a problem with it.
Tymann would only say that the review process would need to recognize certain “essential uses” in the design of nonprofit structures.
Giger in turn, reminded Tymann that the board still had a responsibility to see that such buildings meet the zoning bylaw’s dimensional requirements and other elements, such as drainage and traffic generation.
The byplay was reminiscent of the previous meeting held in 2013, when builder/developer Michael Vaccaro left vowing to push back should town officials show any sign of rejecting the project because “minorities” might not be welcome in town.
Situated on 29 acres of land on the Littleton town line, the temple site was once to be the location of the defunct Oak Ridge Estates sub-division.
The Oak Ridge project, developed by Matbob Inc., had long been a bone of contention with town planners until the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a comprehensive permit for the 40B affordable-housing project in 2009.
But a flagging economy and depressed real-estate market prevented Matbob from proceeding with its plans even after the state’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a superseding order of conditions that would have allowed the project to move forward despite concerns raised by the Conservation Commission.
With the continued existence of nearby wetlands, those concerns still exist.
To be called the Shirdisai Hindu Temple, the proposed structure would be located on high ground and is expected to seat up to 500 people.
As planned, the temple is to be set amid formal gardens that could include a number of water fountains.
In the future, plans might also call for the construction of a second building to be used for social functions.
Parking will include spaces for upward of 220 vehicles, satisfying local zoning that requires one space for every three people for places of public attendance.