GROTON -- After an earlier meeting when it seemed as if the end might be in sight, restauranteur George Pergantis and members of the Planning Board were as far apart as ever last week when a public hearing yielded more questions than answers about his plans to open a new seafood restaurant.
Pergantis' engineer Jeff Brem opened the Nov. 15 public hearing by addressing concerns raised by board members at a previous meeting, including the submission of a floor plan covering both the restaurant portion of the proposed eatery and the function hall portion.
According to Brem, seating between the two would come to 64 for the restaurant and 90 for the function hall. The engineer noted that the planned seating came to only half of the 314 that the town's building inspector determined was allowed.
"It's on the plan now," said Brem of the seating issue. "It's black and white."
But no sooner had Brem concluded his update than an issue was raised reminiscent of the kind that had landed Pergantis in trouble in a previous application.
If seating was to be set at a total of 154, asked board member Russell Burke, then why did a sign on the 124 Main St. property read over 200?
The news seemed to take Brem by surprise, something that had happened to him before when his client would perform work on the property without informing him or the board about changes he made there.
Pergantis, who attended the Nov. 15 meeting, told the board that the sign was wrong.
That assurance did not completely ameliorate the situation as board members pointed out that a sign should not even have been out there without a sign permit from the Historical Districts Commission.
Other concerns about the application raised by the board included the fate of a fenced off swimming pool on the property and parking which at one time seemed settled but which came up again due to the uncertainty of the proposed seating.
Board member Tim Svarczkopf for one feared that if seating for 314 were allowed by law, how could the town be sure that if at some future date, customers might exceed the 154 seats being applied for by Pergantis with subsequent traffic spilling onto Main Street and impacting other businesses there?
Board chairman John Giger said the problem could be solved if the applicant were willing to sign an agreement that would definitely limit seating to 154 and no more.
Brem replied that he was sure his client would agree to such an arrangement because that was all he was applying for.
Meanwhile, the larger issue of the inadequacy of the applicant's site plan as submitted to the board drew the greatest concern of members who felt it did not show everything that was needed including existing structures, property lines, the swimming pool and adjacent apartment units, even topographic details.
"As far as I'm concerned, that makes it an incomplete site plan," said Burke who later snapped at Brem, deriding landscaping details on the site plan as being "cartoonish."
Frustrated, Pergantis then rose unsteadily to his feet and charged the board with not really wanting a restaurant on the property at all. That town officials would rather see office space built there.
"I'm too old for this," declared Pergantis. "I'm very angry. I need help and no one helps me."
Chairman John Giger, seeking to defuse the situation, told Pergantis that nothing was being asked of him that was not asked of every applicant. The board just needed more information.
This was the third try by the applicant for a special permit and site plan review, said Giger, but while Pergantis has supplied some information, he had not supplied others.
With a more complete site plan needed as well as more information on parking, seating, occupancy issues, and even landscaping still outstanding, board members voted to continue the public hearing until its meeting of Dec. 6.
Also continued until Dec. 6 was a public hearing with the Groton Electric Light Department.
That hearing was continued pending more information on a number of waivers to be sought by GELD in relation to its plans to build a new office/garage complex on its property off Station Avenue.
In a premiere appearance before the board last week, GELD attorney Robert Collins summarized the project to members saying that the 3.8-acre site of the department's existing buildings would be reduced to 1.5 with all operations to be consolidated within the confines of a single new building when completed.
The planned facility would be bracketed by two parking lots with a total of 21 spaces.
"This is a significant improvement over what exists today in addition to aesthetic improvements," said Collins of the plan.
Plus, the continued existence of GELD's headquarters on Station Avenue would help fulfill the town's larger goal of drawing foot traffic to the neighborhood.
"This facility actually speaks to those goals," Collins said.