GROTON -- Meeting with their consultant last week, members of the Planning Board continued discussions regarding the formulation of design guidelines for the Town Center Overlay District.
Uppermost on the minds of board members was how to reconcile the concerns of various groups with interests in the downtown area including the Historic District Commission, the Planning Board itself and its own Design Review Committee.
"It's a question of overlapping districts and overlapping jurisdictions," said board member Scott Wilson of the problem.
Scott said that in order reconcile the two, the town would either have to create more bureaucracy to address each of the areas of separate concern or develop some sort of shared responsibility.
Last week's meeting came on the heels of a workshop held on the same subject in May that had its genesis in a disagreement between the Planning Board and the Design Review Committee over how to interpret existing guidelines as they applied to areas outside the Station Avenue neighborhood, guidelines that had originally been created when Station Avenue was the sole focus of a new overlay district.
Things became more complicated when the Station Avenue overlay district expanded and became the town center overlay district that included the Boynton Meadows sub-division at 134 Main Street.
Faced with the fact that guidelines created for Station Avenue were inadequate for other projects such as Boynton Meadows,
Opening last week's meeting saying that he had more questions than answers for the board, Flinker displayed a map of the town center designating "sub-zones" that he said represented areas for which town officials might set different goals such as keeping things as they were or future development.
But the problem for future planning, cautioned Flinker, was that much of the town center's makeup was "fixed" due to existing zoning or historic preservation.
One of the questions Flinker posed to the board last week was whether these areas could be covered with guidelines tailored for each or keeping things as they were but with some added guidelines.
"We ought to be sensitive to the different areas," said Wilson citing the example of the conflict between guidelines set for the Station Avenue neighborhood and the different needs of the Boynton Meadows project.
Noting the conflicting interests of groups such as the Planning Board and the HDC, Flinker agreed that a consensus needed to be reached over what was needed for different areas of the town center rather than relying on subjective opinion.
Better coordination at least, needed to be established between the concerned parties.
Easier said than done, noted board member Russell Burke of swaying public opinion. Often when it came to doing things differently, positions in town ranged from a willingness to redo the whole thing to "over my dead body!"
The only places in the town center that real changes could be made at present, Burke said, were at the Prescott School property and the site of the former Groton Inn.
Last week's meeting ended inconclusively with board members expected to continue discussion of options at a future date before recalling Flinker to provide him with direction on which paths his guidelines should take.
Also at the July 12 meeting, board members allowed a letter of agreement to be drawn up between themselves and developer Bruce Wheeler detailing the schedule on how he is to proceed building a remaining five affordable housing units at the Academy Hill sub-division.
Located off Townsend Road, when completed, Academy Hill will include a total of 94 homes located on 100 acres of land. As part of Wheeler's agreement with the town, parts of another 213 acres are to be donated to the town and the state's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife as conservation land.
According to planning administrator Michelle Collette, home construction at the site including five affordables has been ongoing with many units already occupied.
The letter of agreement will also cover a reduction in a surety bond put up by Wheeler as a condition of his special permit.