GROTON -- In a meeting with local businessmen, the Planning Board unveiled a plan to further break down zoning districts in town, adding three new districts to five existing ones.

Two other existing zones would be eliminated.

In addition to existing districts including residential-agricultural, residential business, industrial, public use and open space, three new zones would be created, including neighborhood business, village center business and general business.

According to board Chairman John Giger, who conducted the Feb. 6 presentation, the current zoning districts cover too broad an area with more specifically defined districts needed.

"We currently have one size fits all," said Giger.

The issue of more specificity arose from current efforts to update the town's master plan, which found that "commercial and industrial zoning districts have very little land and vague (if not obsolete) use regulations that do not align with Groton's economic development goals."

It was found that while there was room to expand the town's existing business zones, they were largely a "blunt tool" that did not take into account different usages. It was recommended that business zones be reconfigured to better conform to particular areas of town like West Groton, town center, the Four Corners and Lost Lake.

"The use and dimensional regulations that apply in each district should relate to the unique conditions in each area and be conscious of community-wide economic goals," stated Giger in his presentation.

The new zoning districts would provide for mixed business uses with dimensional requirements for such things as lot size and building height tailored for individual village areas.

The zoning changes would eliminate 50 foot minimum front yard setbacks to encourage "compact, pedestrian oriented development" and discouragement of single-family dwellings in business areas would reduce the potential for conflict in the neighborhoods.

Essentially, the proposed changes to zoning would concentrate on business districts, dividing them into neighborhood, village center, and general business categories.

Neighborhood districts would allow small businesses providing goods and services within or near residential areas where other services are farther away.

Village center districts would allow mixed uses for larger-scale businesses including office space, which "contribute to the village's sense of place."

General business districts would "provide for a range of retail uses and services and commercial activities in appropriate locations along arterial or primary roads."

In Giger's presentation, each kind of business was anticipated, including restaurants, medical offices, and kennels, along with their potential square footage and arranged on a chart indicating whether they would require Planning Board of Zoning Board of Appeals approval.

Giger's presentation was followed by Town Planner Michelle Collette's tour of areas in town currently zoned as simply business but that would be rezoned into one of the three new categories should the change in zoning be approved.

Among the neighborhood's cited by Collette were West Groton Village and Rivercourt Residences; Main Street and Champney; Main Street at Lowell Road; and Main Street at Hollis Street; which would be rezoned as village centers.

Stephens and 382 West Main; AL Prime and 619 Boston Road; and the Boston Road Liquor Store along Route 119 would be rezoned as neighborhood businesses.

Hollingsworth & Vose; Mill Run Plaza; Boston Road near Lovers Lane and Skyfield Drive; and the Four Corners would be zoned for general business.

The designation of Main Street at Elm and Pleasant streets as a village center was the only suggested change that drew criticism from local property and business owners who attended the Feb. 6 meeting.

In that case, Dottie Mack, owner of Avalon Home Design on Boston Road, objected to the change her home in the Elm Street neighborhood would undergo, preventing her from selling it at some future date to any business that might want to install drive-up service. 

In addition to her complaints that the changes would remove some of the value of her property, Mack also questioned the legality of the zoning proposal.

Mack's expression of her concerns, however, touched on areas unrelated to the subject at hand. After a number of interruptions, she was threatened by Giger with removal from the meeting if she persisted.

Among others in attendance at the meeting, there were questions but few concerns about the proposal in general.

If adopted by the Planning Board, any of the proposed zoning changes would ultimately have to receive the approval of Town Meeting to become official.