GROTON -- Wasting little time, town officials moved quickly on a project that would increase the amount of parking at Town Hall that on busy nights can overflow all the way down Station Avenue.
Appearing before the Planning Board June 13, Department of Public Works director Tom Delaney presented his plans for turning an empty lot adjacent to Town Hall into extra parking for employees and residents.
"We're not going to dump a whole lot of money into it," said Delaney.
The DPW director told board members that he planned to clear the wooded lot of brush and level the ground off somewhat using fill.
Two entrances would be created from Station Avenue and a footpath connecting the new lot with the Town Hall property would be laid out by a utility garage in the existing parking lot.
The new lot itself, said Delaney, would not be paved and would be situated lower down than the level of the existing parking area. That would negate runoff draining onto the Town Hall site.
Delaney said that because the new lot is only being leased by the town, it was decided not to invest too much money in paving and other permanent features.
Owned by Atlantic East LLC, the empty lot had at one time been the site of a house before it was demolished to make way for new condominiums. That plan, however, went away when the property was purchased by the current owners.
Atlantic East had intended to include the lot as part of an overall plan for the redevelopment of Station Avenue it had proposed. But when a competing plan was chosen by the town, use of the lot moved to the back burner.
In the end, the accepted plan was never implemented; the one-third acre lot remained empty, slowly reclaimed by nature.
At a meeting held June 10, selectmen voted to approve a one-year agreement with Atlantic East to lease the empty lot for $1 for one year while the owner continues to pay the annual property tax of $2,863.
In return, the town would pay for labor and material needed to improve the the property for use as a parking lot with room for 15-20 spaces.
According to Delaney, the temporary nature of the improvements is due to the uncertain fate of the old Center Fire Station, which abuts the empty lot on the opposite side from Town Hall. Should the station be sold, the empty lot would likely increase in value leaving a possibility that the owner might sell.
In the meantime, with a vote from the Planning Board approving the design plan for a "temporary municipal parking lot," Delaney said he hoped to begin work over the coming week and be finished a week after that.
As the lot resides outside the 100-foot buffer zone of any nearby wetland, a hearing before the Conservation Commission proved unnecessary.
Also June 13, board members approved sending a letter to local restauranteur George Pergantis alerting him that a six-month review of his operations at 124 Main St. is coming due.
After months of wrangling over different issues, especially parking, the board granted Pergantis a special permit allowing him to proceed with his plans to open the Coach House Seafood Grill & Restaurant.
Pergantis made his plans to open the restaurant soon after suffering the loss of the historic Groton Inn that had been located on the same property as the coach house.
Due to Pergantis' eagerness to get moving on his new restaurant, he jumped the gun a number of times doing work at his Main Street property before it had been reviewed or approved by the board. Those actions contributed to the board's concern regarding what has been happening at the site since awarding the permit.
Thus, members decided to conduct a site walk on the property prior to meeting with Pergantis to discuss the six-month review.