GROTON -- More changes are due at Groton School, as members of the Historic Districts Commission learned at their meeting of April 16, when they were presented with plans for updating the institution's schoolhouse building.

The news was delivered by Groton School attorney Robert Collins, who told commissioners that school administrators planned to add a connecting section to two wings of the existing building while at the same time updating teaching laboratories to current educational standards.

Describing the current building as being in the shape of a C, Collins said the planned addition would fill the open gap, turning the C into an O with a possible atrium section to be located within the four interior walls of the newly refurbished building.

The commission's interest in the project is due to the schoolhouse building being located within one of the town's historic districts that runs along Farmers Row.

Part of the building's current construction expected to be replaced by the new wing, said Collins, was constructed in the 1960s. Architecture for the wing may have been deemed appropriate decades ago but by current standards of historical preservation and good taste make it more of an eyesore than anything.

Consequently, said Collins, the new addition would conform to the style of the original portions of the building and present a uniform architectural style, a style that the attorney described as "one of the nicest" in town.

The proposed changes, concluded Collins, would bring the building into the 21st century, including plans to make it ADA compliant or handicapped accessible through the new wing.

Collins concluded his presentation saying that the school would like to move on the project "pretty quick," with hopes of starting work before the end of the year.

Commissioners then set May 21 for a public hearing on the issue while planning to conduct individual visits to the site in the meantime.

Also at their meeting of April 16, commissioners were briefed on plans by Bank of America to renovate portions of their building at 167 Main St. to make it ADA compliant.

As explained by bank representative Delia Gott, commissioners learned that the plan was part of a larger endeavor by Bank of America to make its banks more handicapped accessible.

Particular branches were selected for the upgrades, with the one in Groton among them.

Upgrades, said Gott, included leveling off portions of the parking lot, repaving walkways, and replacing the doorways in the vestibule with wider versions.

In considering the issue, commissioners were also informed by town planner Michelle Collette that the town's Commission on Accessibility had earlier voted to support the changes and commended the bank's taking a proactive approach to accessibility.

Seeing the changes being proposed were "minimal," the HDC voted to grant the project a certificate of appropriateness.

Although the vote waived the need of a public hearing on the issue, it was still conditioned on a 10-day waiting period, giving abutters who objected a chance to register their concerns and ask that a public hearing be held.

Finally, commissioners ended their April 16 gathering in a joint meeting with members of the Planning Board to discuss a draft agreement between them that would spell out the "jurisdictional responsibilities" of the HDC and the board's Design Review Committee in reviewing construction projects that fall within the town center overlay district.

"The overall objective," explained HDC chairman Daniel Barton of the joint meeting, "is to better understand each other's responsibilities."

One point making settlement on an agreement difficult, said Barton, is continued confusion over the overlay district itself, whose strictures have not been revisited since the time when it only covered Station Avenue.

That confusion arose when the Station Avenue overlay district was expanded across Main Street to include the new Boynton Meadows subdivision, something not taken into account when the original district was approved by Town Meeting.

With the possibility that the overlay district could spread to other areas downtown, planners hope to eventually upgrade existing design guidelines to conform with the conditions along Main Street that do not necessarily conform to the needs of Station Avenue. 

After some discussion of the issues involved, members ended the meeting with the formation of a subcommittee to study the draft agreement and make a recommendation to the two boards.