GROTON -- Town officials received an early Christmas gift of sorts when members of the Historic Districts Commission voted to grant the Center Fire Station building project a certificate of appropriateness.
The decision was made at the commission's meeting of Dec. 4, after nearly two hours of discussion reviewing details of the proposed design plan for the new fire station, including landscaping and outside architectural features visible from Farmers Row.
Commissioners took such care because, in the words of HDC Chairman Daniel Barton, the project would have a "big impact" on an historic district that also includes the Groton School and other historic homes.
As proposed, the new Center Fire Station is to include a four-bay garage and two-story administration complex with offices on the first floor; fitness room, dormitory, kitchen, dining room, and day room planned for the second floor; and HVAC and other mechanical equipment to be placed in a third-floor "attic" space.
The facility's overall appearance will be that of a barn-like structure intended to blend in with the town's character.
The commission's unanimous vote came in time for conditions listed as part of the approval to be added to an request for proposals already issued by the town for private contractors.
Among the concerns raised by the commission at the Dec. 4 meeting were lighting, retaining-wall design, signage, the use of granite curbing, color scheme, door and window alignment
In addition, commissioners warned fire Chief Joseph Bosselait, who attended the meeting along with an architect from the Dorn & Whittier design team, that they would carefully scrutinize any signs or traffic signals that might be erected at the driveway entrance along Farmers Row.
Barton specifically mentioned school zone signage recently placed along the scenic roadway by the nearby Groton School as an example.
The HDC chairman also said that a memo would be included with the conditions of approval advising the town to seek the purchase of open land adjacent to the fire station property in order to assure continuance of the viewscape currently consisting of pasturage.
At a meeting of the Board of Selectmen held Dec. 3, Town Manager Mark Haddad said the fire station project had already been put out to bid with that of the general contractor scheduled to be opened on Dec. 21 with those of sub-contractors on Dec. 12.
With the conditions demanded by the HDC in hand, there will be time for bid information to be updated so that a firm cost for construction of the new fire station can be in hand for residents when they consider an appropriation measure at special Town Meeting.
In Haddad's estimation, the appropriation measure authorizing town administrators to raise or borrow the money needed to build the fire station should come in around $5.9 million, a sum in excess of $800,000 already collected for design plans and permitting, and $350,000 for purchase of the 2.7-acre parcel upon which the facility is to be constructed.
In addition to the list of conditions covering the various concerns raised by the commission over the course of its meeting, the Dec. 4 vote of approval will also require the submission of the project's final architectural plans for review.
"I'm very pleased with tonight's vote," said a smiling Bosselait as he emerged from the HDC meeting.
Bosselait said with the commission's vote, nothing remains in the way of construction of the new fire station save the final spending vote by residents at special Town Meeting.
If the spending measure is passed there, construction of the new fire station is expected to begin by March 1 and completed a year later, on April 1, 2014.