GROTON -- A conflict of interest predominated a public hearing held by the Board of Selectmen to consider making Off Prescott Street a public way.
At issue was disagreement between residents who live on the street, some of whom wanted the town to adopt the road so as to ensure winter snow plowing and maintenance and others who preferred that the town stay out, fearful that if their street became a public way, it would be opened to development.
That fear stemmed from the neighborhood's biggest landowner, Grotonwoods, which claims considerable frontage along the street.
But in a letter from Grotonwoods attorney Robert Collins, read at the meeting, his client had no interest in developing its land along Off Prescott Street.
That word was bolstered in person by Grotonwoods representative Richard Wolf, who told selectmen at the March 18 hearing, that there was "ambiguity" surrounding the legal status of the road.
That said, Wolf reiterated that Grotonwoods had no intention of developing its land in the neighborhood.
Still, there was confusion among residents whether Off Prescott Street was already an accepted public road, with one insisting that almost 30 years ago, someone in Town Hall told them it was.
One way or another, said DPW director Tom Delaney, who some residents said had "threatened" them with refusing maintenance of the road, the street had to be declared public or private.
Delaney explained that in order to use state highway repair funds on Off Prescott, the street needed to be a public way, so he had no choice but not to do anything such as paving until the issue was settled.
Boiling the issue down to its essentials, board Chairman Stuart Schulman said it all came down to the fact that everyone would agree to making Off Prescott Street a town way, providing there was assurance that the Grotonwoods land would never be developed.
Fellow board member Joshua Degen stated flatly that the street was very clearly a private way. If Grotonwoods would agree to place something like a conservation restriction on its land to keep it from being developed, he would agree to accepting the road as a public way, if not, he would be against it.
The hearing ended when it was decided that Grotonwoods meet with Town Manager Mark Haddad, the Conservation Commission, and attorney Collins to discuss a possible restriction and prepare an agreement in time for consideration at the fall special Town Meeting.
In the meantime, selectmen voted to remove an article on the warrant for spring Town Meeting that would have asked residents to accept Off Prescott Street as a town way.
Also at the March 18 meeting, selectmen voted to accept an request for proposal from the Prescott Re-Use Committee for the former Prescott school building.
The RFP is to be advertized in the state's Central Register and other real estate sources seeking contractors to bid on redeveloping the historic structure for "hospitality use" or as it has been described, a bed and breakfast.
The Re-Use Committee was charged by the Board of Selectmen to make a study of the Prescott School building to determine the best uses for which it could be redeveloped.
The 75-year-old building has been under scrutiny by town officials ever since the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District ended its use as an active elementary school and moved its administrative offices there from the now disused Tarbell Elementary School building in West Groton.
Among the possibilities for the building's use considered by the committee included a museum, affordable housing, office space, and the location for a new Center Fire Station.
In fact, the possibility that it might be used for a new fire station was what held up the RFP. When residents finally agreed to site the new station along Farmers Row, committee members decided that the time was right to bring the RFP forward.
If a bed and breakfast facility is eventually cited at the former school building, it would generate added revenue for the town.
"It will be real interesting to see what response we get," said Schulman of the RFP.
With the board's acceptance of the RFP, Haddad said he would have it reviewed by town counsel before advertising it.