GROTON — Residents gathered at the second session of Special Town Meeting to consider 14 warrant articles that had remained undecided since the week before.
At night one, the question of whether to sell the former Prescott Elementary School building had held center stage. The measure was narrowly defeated and prior to the Oct. 27 second session, there was talk that a motion to reconsider the earlier vote might be brought up on the floor of town meeting.
That contingency, however, did not happen and a related article that would have given developer Gregg Yanchenko, if he had been allowed to purchase Prescott, a break on his real estate taxes, was indefinitely postponed.
But a third article dealing with the Prescott issue, one that asked residents to change the zoning of the school property so that it could be included in the town center overlay district, did pass muster.
A motion to postpone that measure as well met with opposition as proponents, including Board of Selectmen Chairman Joshua Degen, argued that including it in the district would keep the town’s options open should the opportunity to sell the building come up again in the future.
Of the 171 residents in attendance at town meeting, a majority voted to approve the zoning change.
Residents also voted to appropriate $15,000 to cover the cost of hiring a consultant to help the Lost Lake Watershed Advisory Committee review data collected in past studies of possible contamination sources for the lakes as well as to conduct new reviews of the area.
Part of the committee’s charge is to address the issue of failing septic systems on properties in the lake area, possible contamination of local wells and the impact, if any, of herbicides and insecticides on water quality.
At a recent meetings of the group, members decided that a number of questions needed answering, including: What is the amount or pending problem to water quality at Lost Lake; if a problem is identified, what is its source; and once the source is identified, what are the solutions toward addressing it?
More directly, in question is the condition of the lake’s surface water, the groundwater around the lake and the supply of drinking water.
For all that, committee member Art Prest told voters, an expert is needed for which the appropriation was being requested.
The money awarded would be added to $17,000 already in possession of the committee to pay for the consulting services.
Residents at town meeting also:
* Approved the expenditure from CPC funds (Community Preservation Committee) of $75,000 for the Sargisson Beach Restoration project. The money comes in addition to $109,590 previously awarded as part of Phase I of the work scheduled to repair erosion damage to the beach including the rebuilding of a stone retaining wall and stormwater runoff management. But due to the need to complete all the work at once and the chance to have it cost less, town officials returned to the CPC with a request for the balance of the money slated for Phase II.
* Approved extending the town center sewer system to include property owned by Lawrence Academy on Lovers Lane with all costs associated with its planning and construction to be borne by the school.
* Approved an amendment to language in the town’s zoning code that would change the words “dog officer” and replace them with “animal control officer” in conformance to changes in state law.
* Approved leasing land at the town’s landfill off Cow Pond Brook Road to a private company for use as a solar farm. The lease would be managed by the Groton Electric Light Department with power generated there to be sold to GELD, which would then add it to the town’s energy delivery system.
* Approved an amendment to the town’s zoning bylaws, the centerpiece of which will be the creation of a trio of new business district designations including village center, neighborhood and general business districts. Village center districts would allow mixed uses for larger scale businesses including office space, which “contribute to the village’s sense of place.” Neighborhood districts would allow small businesses providing goods and services within or near residential areas where other services are farther away. General business districts would “provide for a range of retail uses and services and commercial activities in appropriate locations along arterial or primary roads.” According to Planning Board members who sponsored the changes, current zoning districts are too broad with more specifically defined districts preferred.
* Turned down a second bylaw change sought by the Planning Board that would have changed the designation of utilities such as telephone, electricity, gas and cable TV to “essential public services” requiring special permit review and approval by the board. But lack of support by the town’s utility boards and suspicion by some at town meeting that the move was designed as a way to block plans to bring a natural gas pipeline through town caused the measure to fail.
* Approved a citizens’ petition to create a Study Committee on Electronic Voting in Groton Town Meeting, which will “study the benefits, implementation procedures and issues, and potential problems associated with the use of electronic voting systems in an open form of town meeting.” The group, to be composed of the town moderator, town clerk, town manager and representatives from the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committees, as well as citizens at large, is mandated to report its findings and recommendations to spring town meeting in 2015.