GROTON -- At a busy meeting of the Planning Board held March 6, members heard plans by the Groton Electric Light Department to lease land it owns as a site for a ground-based solar power array; developer Robert Kiley on a subdivision off Lowell and Schoolhouse roads; and developers of a proposed Hindu temple to be located on the town line with Littleton.

First up was the Electric Light Department represented by attorney Robert Collins who reminded board members that his client had applied earlier for a special permit to install a solar power array on land it owns off Nate Nutting Road. But because that site became too constricted due to its encroachment onto an endangered species habitat, it was decided to split the number of solar panels between that property and another location at Sandy Pond Road.

Combined, the two properties come to 27 acres of which a total of 11.5 would be used for the solar panels.

According to GELD manager Kevin Kelly, the plan called for the land to be leased to a private contractor who would locate and maintain the solar panels and sell the power generated from them to the Electric Light Department.

Kelly said that at peak energy use, power supplied by the array could provide up to 7 percent of customers' needs.

But with concerns about access to the site by emergency vehicles, a decision by the board was delayed until the public hearing could be continued to March 20.

Chamberlains Mill

Next up was review of Kiley's definitive plan for Chamberlains Mill, the 9-lot subdivision he proposes to develop at Lowell and Schoolhouse roads.

The project is to move forward under contract with the estate of Rita O'Connell at the 25-acre parcel which already includes an existing home.

As planned, the development calls for new 5 bedroom homes to be constructed on the eight of the nine 1-2 acre lots with the remaining 11 acres to be deeded to the town's Water Department to help in protecting a well site on adjacent property.

To be called Chamberlains Mill, the proposed sub-division consists of a single access to the road leading to a rotary off of which separate driveways will radiate including one that will be shared by a number of the new homes.

But the biggest impediment to the project's moving forward turned out to be the town's Historical Commission whose chairman, Robert DeGroot, asked that construction be delayed pending a reconnaissance of the site for the archeological remains of an old one-room schoolhouse that used to stand in the vicinity.

Collins had opened discussion of the project with an explanation that what remained of the old Willard school house was buried beneath Route 40 and that the only visible remnant was a pile of red bricks off the side of the road.

Nevertheless, DeGroot pressed the case for delay, insisting that the commission's position was not intended in any way to keep the project from moving forward.

"What we have here is a historic site," claimed DeGroot.

Board chairman John Giger said that the board was not in a position to manage the two parties on the issue of historic preservation or investigation and advised them to get together and come to an agreement between themselves.

"You guys need to work it out," Giger concluded.

But with concerns raised about the project by the board's engineering consultant and a number of waivers to the town's zoning bylaws to be requested by Collins, it was deemed appropriate to continue the hearing until March 20.

Public hearing opens for proposed temple

Finally, board members opened the first session of a public hearing on a Hindu temple proposed for land located along the Littleton town line.

Representing the New England Shirdi Sai Parivar temple, architect B.D. Nayak summarized details of the building plan which is to include a temple building consisting of two floors that will meet the height requirement in the town's zoning bylaws and a trio of spires with a central spire rising to a height of 104 feet.

The central spire could rise higher if a 20-foot ornamental piece is included.

Anticipating questions about the height of the tower, Nayak told board members that it was "reasonable and necessary" for proper worship at the temple. "Otherwise, the building has no meaning for us."

Situated on 29 acres of land on the Littleton town line, the temple site was once to be the location of the Oak Ridge Estates sub-division but due to a downturn in the economy, the project never got off the ground.

As a result, landowners Matbob, Inc. arranged to sell the property to the developers of the Shirdi Sai Hindu Temple. They, in turn, have proposed a structure that would be located on high ground and that 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 with future plans calling for the construction of a second building to be used for social functions.

"It will be a very handsome building," said Nayak of the final result. "And I hope it will be a landmark in town."

Although parking had been estimated by the developer to be upward of 220, a report by the town's building inspector determined that 337 would be needed.

Other concerns raised by board members over the course of the hearing included lighting, interior traffic flow, temple routine, access for emergency vehicles, handicapped accessibility, drainage, traffic, water availability, and blasting needed during the construction phase.

With those questions outstanding, the hearing was continued until to March 20.