GROTON -- It was a fresh start last week for a local businessman who had suffered a string of bad luck over the last year. His historic Groton Inn was destroyed by fire and an earlier attempt to convert a remaining function hall into a seafood restaurant floundered in an initial application with the Planning Board.
Restauranteur George Pergantis returned to the board accompanied by attorney Jeffrey Brem. It was his second try at getting approval for a Coach House Grill & Seafood Restaurant he plans to locate in a building on the Main Street property. The coach house was spared when fire consumed the inn.
"I'm here tonight to open a seafood restaurant," Pergantis told board members after reminding them that he had spent a good deal of money in his first failed attempt to have his new restaurant project approved. "I've been a resident of Groton for 37 years and never did anything wrong. Now it's up to you."
In his remarks, Pergantis referred to an earlier application for a special permit that he was eventually forced to withdraw without prejudice. Confusion had arisen not only between himself and the board but between himself and Brem over what exactly he planned to use the Main Street building for: a restaurant or a function hall.
In addition, each time the applicant returned to the board, details of the site plan would change or it was learned that Pergantis had gone ahead and performed work on the site without approval of the board, frequently work that contradicted the aim of town regulations.
Following the withdrawal of his application last June, Pergantis returned in August in company with HVAC installer Don Ross and sounded members out on what they would require for a re-application for a seafood restaurant.
At the time, board members warned Ross that no work at the property could be considered by the board until a proper site plan had been submitted for review. He was also reminded that the board had to abide by the town's bylaws governing different levels of site plan review based on change of use.
Be that as it may, when Pergantis appeared before the board Oct. 18, Ross was gone and Brem had returned along with fellow attorney John Gallant.
Brem opened his remarks by reviewing the site plan. It had not changed greatly except in the area of parking which the attorney noted would be set at five street-side spots and 51 on the property.
With the new application clearly stating that Pergantis' plans called for the former coach house being converted for use as both a function hall and a restaurant, Brem said that the new establishment would seat 64 in the restaurant portion and 90 in the function hall.
The final number of seats, said Brem, would be contingent upon the board approving a number of waivers being requested, one involving landscaping.
Concerns raised by the board included possible additional seating on a patio located at the rear of the building, condition of an as yet unpaved access road on the property, location of the Dumpster, parking at a pair of apartment buildings also located on the property, and what to do about a unused pool attached to the apartments.
Finally, what kind of lighting proposed for use outside the restaurant was also on board members' minds with George Barringer asking that parking lot lighting be shielded and directed away from neighbors.
The public hearing was continued to this week when the applicant is expected to return with many of the board's concerns having been addressed.
Also last week, the board voted to approve a change in parking arrangements at the First Parish Church.
As presented, the plan was to create two additional handicapped parking spaces near the church building, which would be offset by spaces available in a lower parking lot owned by next door neighbor Lawrence Academy.
In an arrangement with the school, the church can use the lot which had not existed the last time parking around the church was approved.