GROTON -- Proponents seeking to rebuild the historic Groton Inn on Main Street received an important endorsement when the Planning Board decided to recommend the concept plan to voters at next month's Town Meeting.
For developers Chris Ferris and Richard Cooper of 128 Main Street LLC, the vote was a key component in their campaign for formal review by the town's land-use boards.
Ferris and Cooper have entered into a purchase-and-sales agreement with George Pergantis, owner of the 8.5-acre site where the historic Groton Inn was destroyed by fire.
According to the concept plan presented at the board's meeting Sept. 19, the developers intend to replicate the former inn building as a 51,208-square-foot, 24-room hostelry that could also include 30 separate cottages to be constructed in the rear.
For those, a dozen units would be built over the area where the property's current carriage house is located and be rented to tenants on a long-term basis. On the opposite side, the remainder of the planned cottages would be built in two phases and rented on a short-term basis the same as any room in the inn proper would be.
Beside the new inn building, which would also include a 50-seat restaurant, a new carriage house would be built with a caretaker's residence on an upper floor.
"This is just a concept," stressed Cooper. "We're not trying to step on any toes. We just want to try and make it as close to the old inn as possible."
"We're looking for a very collegial feel as you enter town," said Ferris. He said he and Cooper look forward to working with local craftsmen on details of the architecture.
"I think this is a very wonderful plan being proposed to the town," said board member Russell Burke. "When you look at the range of uses that could be done at the property ... it's quite encouraging."
Also considered in the plan will be integration of the inn site with other parts of town, including a wooden footbridge to be used as a connection with nearby Gibbet Hill Grill and interior roadway connection to Boynton Meadows next door.
In a preview of the application process should the concept plan be approved by Town Meeting, board members raised concerns about lighting, parking, viewscape, elevations, accessibility, arrangement of the cottages and "guiding principles" to be used in the design phase.
Although Ferris and Cooper's plans for the site met with an overall friendly reception, especially with extra features such as its connectivity, creation of affordable-housing units, and openness to community uses, there were those attending the hearing that expressed reservations.
"I think the (project) would be a benefit to the town but I'm concerned with all this development in back," said resident Robert Pine.
Pine said he had "no clue" about what was going on there and suggested that the concept plan as it stood was "premature." It needs to show more detail on what is being planned before it hits Town Meeting floor, he said.
But board members felt that a concept plan did not need to go into much more detail. Details would be reviewed thoroughly when the special permit review process began.
"Our commitment to the review process is 100 percent," assured architect Richard Pitman.
Pergantis spoke on behalf of the developers.
"I'm glad these people came," said Pergantis. "I sold to them. They will breath life into the town. I spent my life taking care of (the inn) and lost it. I hope the board helps them to make it successful. I would like to see the inn (restored) as soon as possible."
"We are very encouraged with the reception and are very hopeful about the outcome of town meeting," said Ferris and Cooper representative Dan Wolf.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, with little more discussion, board members voted 6-0 to recommend the concept plan to Town Meeting.
Residents will have a chance to consider the plan for themselves when fall Town Meeting convenes on Oct. 21.