GROTON -- With action taken by the Board of Selectmen at its meeting of Dec. 17, the way was made clear for a local business to take over the vacant Tarbell Elementary School building and to convert it into a multiuse learning center.
Preserving the former school building as a place of learning fulfills one of the desires of neighborhood residents who had expressed their wish to see the historic structure retain its heritage as a place where children could continue to visit.
That purpose was fulfilled when local businesswoman Robin Kane expressed her interest to the town about moving her Country Kids daycare to the Tarbell building.
Excited at the prospect, plans were laid to sell the property to Kane, with the businesswoman expecting to pay for renovations with a bank loan. But when that possibility fell through, another deal was proposed in which she would lease the building from the town instead.
That agreement still left the need to pay for renovations, so Kane decided to apply to the Community Preservation Committee for funding, reasoning that the Tarbell building was public property.
On that basis, Kane, through Town Manager Mark Haddad, approached selectmen for support in an application for $350,000 in CPC funds to cover the cost of lead-paint remediation, roof repairs, installation of a handicapped elevator and handicapped restroom.
Again, the effort failed until the board's Dec. 17 meeting, when Kane appeared in company with new investors willing to support her effort. Together, she and the investors, including West Groton resident Michael Rasmussen, formed a new company called Country Kids TLC.
According to Rasmussen, the group intends to expand usage of the Tarbell building from simply Kane's daycare business to others that might include early education, yoga classes, or a dance studio.
All activities would involve learning of some kind so as to remain within the zoning restrictions placed on the property. At the moment, said Rasmussen, the question had not yet been settled with the investors waiting on the town's zoning enforcement officer for word on exactly what would be permitted uses.
"I think it makes a lot of sense," said Haddad of the overall plan. "It's really great to finally be working things out."
Selectmen agreed and voted to approve a purchase-and-sales agreement for the Tarbell property with Country Kids TLC pending approval of uses by the zoning enforcement officer.
With her fellow investors in place, Kane said she hoped to see her Country Kids daycare service up and running at the Tarbell building by September.
Also at their Dec. 17 meeting, selectmen voted to accept a charge for a new Lost Lake Sewer Committee as well as appointing three of five members, including Susan Horowitz of the Board of Health, Jay Prager of the Finance Committee, and board member Jack Petropoulos.
The move came after a defeat at October's Town Meeting where residents overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have appropriated the funds to pay for construction of the $12.9 million, inter-town sewer system.
Regrouping following Town Meeting, selectmen agreed that the issue was too important to give up on and determined to appoint a new committee to revisit the project and address concerns raised by residents that alternatives to the causes of lake pollution were not all fully explored.
With the appointments made, the problems expected to be addressed by the new committee include finding out exactly where the sources for the lake's pollution are located and identifying different revenue sources to help fund the expensive project.
Finally at the Dec. 17 meeting, the board:
* Voted to accept a conservation restriction over 5.5 acres located off Longhill Road offered to the town by owners Hugh and Marion Stoddart as well as another 26 acres owned by the Groton Conservation Trust known as the Lawrence Woods located along the Nashua River.
* Voted to appoint attorney Martin Schaefer to fill an unexpired term on the Water Commission. Schaefer vied with Lost Lake resident Art Prest for the position, winning the board's support partly on the feeling that Prest was more valuable as a member of the Great Ponds Advisory Committee and proponent of funding for chemical treatment of Lost Lake, which is to be an important question posed to voters at next month's special Town Meeting. "Both candidates are qualified, but I prefer to see Art follow through with Lost Lake," said board member Joshua Degen, echoing the sentiments of his colleagues.