Master Plan Action Agenda: Site Plan Review, Financial Impacts, Parking, and 'Connectivity' Access
Judi Barrett, consultant with the Community Opportunities Group, asked the Planning Board for direction regarding Site Plan review, zoning, and parking, and in particular to talk about the problems they were having in these areas. These discussions were in preparation for the 'Implementation Phase' of ideas presented in the Master Plan.
Barrett told the board that Groton's Site Plan Review was an "interesting bylaw" particularly because it has three tiers. She suggested using two tiers and perhaps using a staff level decision for the lowest level approval for very small projects. "This could fall to the building inspector who could pull together a team" to make the decision. Collette commented that this would be more business friendly for applicants who need one waiver.
Barrett asked about the requirement for a Financial Impact Statement for the Level 2 and Level 3 Site Plans. "Most towns do not have the information needed to do a Financial Impact Statement and you can't provide it." Burke said he likes to ask for the statement and watch certain applicants "fumble with the answers."
Barrett replied, "You can't deny an applicant for not having a Financial Impact Statement. Is this your responsibility to provide the information? Why make this a requirement? Things like environmental impact you can regulate, but you can't deny an application based on the financial impact of having 10 kids in school."
Burke responded that he likes to have it for the record. There are certain areas that are not financially good for the town," he said. He continued that he thought the magnitude of the financial impact was important. Barrett countered, "This should not be part of the conversation if you can do this [project] by-right."
Barrett raised the issue of the Concept Plan to the Board. Giger stressed that the burden of a concept plan is on the proposer. He said that member Svarczkopf volunteered to "look at where we are legally and whether or not the town is politically comfortable with making any changes."
Collette said that there have been two major projects, both located in Business zoned areas - Shaw's Plaza and RiverCourt Residences. "For major projects, the Planning Board cannot recommend unless there is a concept plan." Collette stressed that concept plans have gone before town meeting for the last 20 years.
Member Russ Burke also told Barrett that he was concerned with the metrics used in apportioning parking spaces, noting that the "requirements may be too robust." He said that the Board has tried to use green banking of spaces, and shared parking, and waivers to ease the parking constraints.
Board Chairman John Giger suggested a review of the algorithm used to determine parking requirements based on the number of seats. According to Land Use Director Michelle Collette, parking bylaws originally allowed for 10 on-street parking space credits for businesses, but in some sections that number was reduced to five. "The on-street parking was cut back significantly and I would like to encourage more on-street parking and more walking," she said. Member Svarczkopf added that he felt there was a lot of on-street parking that was not being used.
Burke noted that this is an opportunity to "nudge connectivity between parking areas." Barrett referred to this as 'shared lateral parking uses' through commercial lots.