GROTON -- Town officials involved with the design of a new Center Fire Station have been working on final details ahead of entering upon the formal special permit-application process.
"We're getting very close," Town Manager Mark Haddad told members of the Historic Districts Commission Tuesday night.
The occasion was a public hearing held by the commission to review architectural plans for the new fire station planned for a location along Farmers Row and within the historic district.
In addition to Haddad and the commission, the Tuesday meeting was also attended by architect Donald Walters, whose firm was hired by the town to design the new station.
Walters informed commissioners that the two-story fire station would be three stories tall and more than 18,500 square feet.
"It is a big building," Walters said before noting later that the design had been trimmed from an earlier version, reducing its size.
Earlier in the year, selectmen were given authorization at annual Town Meeting to enter purchase negotiations with the Lawrence Homestead Trust, owners of the Farmers Row property chosen as the best site for the facility.
Cost of the 2.7-acre parcel, which is along one of the town's most scenic drives, has been set at $350,000 with a final price tag for the fire-station building estimated at $8 million.
As proposed, the new fire station will include a four-bay garage and a three-story administration complex with offices on
The building's overall design, as confirmed in Tuesday night's presentation, will be "barn-like" complete with rooftop cupola with clapboard siding to blend in with the surrounding historic district.
A potential problem with the building's design however, is its height. Town zoning regulations call for a maximum height of 35 feet measured from the ground to the ridge of the roof and although the main part of the new fire station is expected to meet that requirement, an enclosed training tower has also been proposed at 47 feet.
Although Haddad said Tuesday night that he expected the tower's height to pass muster, Planning Administrator Michelle Collette said that further research of the town's zoning bylaws needed to be completed for a definitive answer.
Other concerns raised by the commission Tuesday night included grading around the building, snow storage, the location of a retaining wall, parking, preservation of an existing tree where the driveway is expected to be placed, and the amount of area to be covered with asphalt.
A unique feature of Tuesday night's presentation was a painting showing what the site would look like with the proposed building on location.
HDC member Laura Moore liked what she saw.
"I'm really impressed," said Moore, adding that the design looked much better than other public safety buildings she has seen in New Hampshire.
Nevertheless, commission Chairman Daniel Barton was not quite satisfied with the overall design, having trouble reconciling the barn look of the garage portion of the station to a faux farmhouse attached to it.
Also, Commissioner Maureen Giattino wondered if window designs and location could be improved so that they conformed more to what those of a real farmhouse might look like.
Agreeing that the design and layout of the site was very close to what the commission wanted, the fire-station team agreed to meet with the commission Sept. 18 when the outstanding issues are expected to be addressed.
In the meantime, said Haddad, a public hearing on the station design was scheduled for Aug. 8 where the public will be invited to express their thoughts on the project.