GROTON -- In its continuing special permit site plan review for a new office/garage complex proposed by the Groton Electric Light Department for its property off Station Avenue, the Planning Board received positive feedback for the project from members of its Design Review Committee.
The conclusions of the Design Review Committee were reported at the board's meeting of Dec. 6 by committee member Daniel Barton.
"We've reviewed the project very favorably," a pleased Barton told the board.
Barton said the group's focus had been on the exterior of the proposed building which will resemble somewhat an old-fashioned train station, a design in keeping with the neighborhood where a real train station had once stood.
Barton said the findings of the board that he read through at the Dec. 6 meeting were only in draft form and that the final report was scheduled to be typed and distributed to the board soon.
After an exhaustive search for other sites that might be appropriate for a new headquarters building and plans by the town to turn Station Avenue into an extension of the downtown commercial district in anticipation of having the GELD land made available for development, the department decided the most cost-effective approach was for its operations to remain where they were.
Over the past several months, building designs were drawn up until plans were set back when the Conservation Commission rejected them due to encroachment into nearby wetlands. With the intercession of the Board of Selectmen, that hurdle was finally overcome, allowing GELD to complete its plans and to apply for a special permit with the Planning Board.
In its initial appearance before the board some weeks ago, GELD attorney Robert Collins summarized the project to members, saying that the 3.8-acre site containing the department's existing buildings would be reduced to 1.5 acres, 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.
The department's plans received a boost on the evening of Dec. 6 when the DRC presented its findings.
"We didn't see anything in them needing significant change," reported Barton. "It made all good sense."
"I can see that we've made significant gains in design as a result of the DRC review," agreed board member Scott Wilson.
"It has been a very positive process and I don't envision hitting any brick wall with this committee," said Collins, ensuring the board that his client intended to adhere to all of the suggestions put forth by the DRC.
But the positive mood was broken briefly when board member Timothy Svarczkopf said he could not support the project regardless.
"This plan does not satisfy me in any way," Svarczkopf declared.
Dismissing the overall plan while singling out a cupola proposed for the top of the building, describing it as "cartoonish," Svarczkopf dismissed the whole design as "abominable."
Svarczkopf's comments however, passed with no comment by others and it was left to Collins to conclude the evening's presentation with a few hopeful words.
"I believe this is a good project and will create an anchor (for further development and traffic) in this area," concluded Collins.
Concerns raised about the project by board members included how the project fit into plans for the development of Station Avenue, where supplies and equipment were to be stored on site, parking, lighting, snow storage, signage, and the possibility of expansion of the building in the future.
Those issues and others were expected to be addressed when the public hearing continued on Dec. 13.