Proposal For Housing At Country Club Morphs Into Look at Land Potential
by Connie Sartini
What started as a relatively straightforward request by the Town Manager for permission to spend $4,500 for a conceptual plan for land at the Groton Country Club as a possible site for over-55 housing, expanded to using the requested funds for a feasibility study for development potential including extension of the municipal sewer, assessment of the roadway at the site to the actual topography of the land.
The Country Club land in question is located on Whitman Road where the pavilion, the old tennis courts and the parking area are sited.
Town Manager Mark Haddad said that the funds for the plan would come from the Town Hall budget.
While Board member Becky Pine moved to authorize the Town Manager to spend these funds for potential housing on the property, colleague Alison Manugian stressed that the town should “look at alternative uses,” noting that “we haven’t talked about other uses” and suggested that they “convene a committee and see “what they have to say” about other potential uses for the land.
Select Board member John Giger suggested that a “committee should be in place as soon as possible to find out what is and isn’t feasible.” He added that the Board has to decide the scope of the committee and “whether they go all the way through the project…part of their charge will be whether to go forward or not.”
Manugian commented that with the “town not having much commercial land available along with having the Country Club making progress at being sustainable, long-time ownership might not be best for our community,” adding that she wanted discussion of other potential uses.
Giger stressed, “We need to find out. If it’s not feasible, we stop.” He suggested that the “first committee would be responsible to look at the big picture. If we decide to go forward, we can set up a committee dedicated to this. I agree with Alison. We need to put effort into looking at what is possible, and review these possibilities.”
Pine said she was in favor of using the land, “but if the answer is ‘no, we can’t use it,’ then we need to consider other things.”
Haddad reminded the Board that when he came to the then Selectmen three years ago with the Country Club proposal, “They gave me three years to get the Country Club sustainable. We implemented a plan, hired a general manager and turned the club around. We had a goal and we reached the goal.” He added that there is some available land on the 60-acre site that could provide some potential revenue.
He noted that the conceptual plan proposal was not looking at the soil or the sewer needed but specifically at housing. He wanted to look at how many units would fit the area so it would have the highest and best use.
Resident Art Prest told the Board that a lot of thought was put into this possibility. The reason he likes the 55-plus concept is that it is synergistic with the golf course and the pool, and it wouldn’t put pressure on the schools. “The land is RA (Residential/Agricultural) but if it were to be used for commercial purposes, we would have to rezone it.” He added that “many seniors want to downsize and right now they have no place to go. This would be a positive thing for our town.”
Select Board Chairman Barry Pease pointed out that a feasibility study including the road, sewer and topography would have to be done for any kind of development there and that the money would have to be spent anyway. He asked Haddad to go back and talk to the engineers and get a quote supporting all three areas.
A motion was made by Pine for a feasibility study of the development potential for the site including the sewer, roadway and topography on the Groton Country Club property and was approved by the majority of the Board.