GROTON -- With 2012 drawing to a close, members of the Planning Board met to discuss the ongoing effort to update the town's decade-old Master Plan.
Meeting with Community Opportunities Group Inc. representative Judi Barrett on the evening of Dec. 20, the board reviewed a number of items on a punch list of outstanding issues still in need of consideration.
With a process that had been going on for almost two years, work on "Phase I" of the updating process was completed and presented to residents at annual Town Meeting for endorsement.
Despite reservations over the changes by some, the measure passed by a majority vote.
Since then, the updating process has moved on to Phase II, which involves implementation mechanisms for the changes already made.
The updated Master Plan was formed following work by a number of advisory groups who helped to provide information about the town to COG representatives, for integration in the existing Master Plan.
The Boston-based COG was chosen by the Planning Board in September of 2009 to oversee the process of updating the plan, which was last visited in 2002.
COG was hired by the board following a Town Meeting at which residents voted to appropriate $100,000 to pay for the review and updating process that was conducted in two phases: review and information gathering and implementation.
The results of Phase I were eventually approved by residents at annual Town Meeting.
Meanwhile, at the Dec. 20 meeting, Planning Board members met with Barrett to discuss a number of ongoing issues, including site-plan review for new construction, parking requirements, the responsibilities of the Historic Districts Commission versus those of the Historical Commission, vague or inexact language used in the town's bylaws, and extension of the town's sewer system.
In issues of zoning, members noted the traditional struggle in Groton between large- and small-scale development and questioned ways in which the two could be reconciled.
"The political will just isn't there to take that on at this time," admitted board chairman John Giger.
Other members of the board pointed out a situation that existed at the Four Corners with a Shaws supermarket that dominates the neighborhood and accompanying lots prepared and approved but still undeveloped years after the chain store has been up and running.
Another item of concern highlighted by the Shaws store was parking.
Planning Administrator Michelle Collette said Shaws appeared to have "a sea of asphalt" that dwarfed the number of cars in its lot and made it appear to traffic along Route 119 that "no one shopped there."
As for language used in some of the town's current bylaws, board member Russell Burke gave up trying to understand one convoluted passage covering flexible developments, wondering if the framers had been hallucinatory when they wrote it.
"There's a lot of archaic language that needs to be reviewed," agreed Collette, adding that wording dealing with sub-division development was put together in the 1970s to address a boom in construction that saw the town approving up to 150 building permits every year.
Work on the Master Plan is expected to continue into the new year and dovetail with a "complete streets" program being prepared by consultant Peter Flinker.