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Voters Greenlight Groton Inn Zoning Expansion

Under the newly approved zoning classification for the Groton Inn’s property at 11 Lowell Road, design for the expansion of the Inn must go through approvals with the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Historic District Commission and all other boards. John Amaral said, “We’re trying to be very sensitive to the issues that currently exist in the Center, but most importantly bring some of that vibrancy and additional community to the center of town.”

Some examples of how new mixed-use building at the Groton Inn property facing Main Street could look once designed.

by Russell Harris

 

When the steel skeleton of the Groton Inn was erected two years ago, some shook their heads, solemnly predicting that the business was not viable and would fail. The skeptics have been proven wrong, very wrong. From opening day, demand for lodging at the Inn and dining at Forge and Vine restaurant have exceeded management expectations. 

     To better serve a burgeoning clientele, the Groton Inn purchased the property at 11 Lowell Road from Lawrence Academy for $575,000 in September 2018. This two-acre parcel abuts the eastern side of the 8.4 acre Groton Inn parcel. [See graphic above]

      At Spring Town Meeting last week the Groton Inn requested and received approval to include the 11 Lowell Road parcel in the Town Center Overlay District, a section of the Groton Zoning bylaw that provides for significant Planning Board oversight which would make possible mixed-use development of the property as an integral part of the Inn’s operations. 

    Planning Board member Russ Burke said the Planning Board had reviewed preliminary development ideas for the new parcel with Groton Inn ownership. Burke said the Planning Board agreed that expanding the Town Center Overlay District was the best zoning classification for the town to oversee development of the property while keeping within town guidelines and aesthetics and providing the Groton Inn a pathway to achieve its development goals. 

     He explained that the site’s current zoning is single family residential, a classification that would not allow the Inn to achieve its mixed-use development goals. Burke added that other business zoning classifications in Groton would neither allow mixed-use development nor allow the Planning Board to issue a special permit, give site plan approval, or enforce design guidelines. Expanding the Town Center Overlay District was the best means for putting the property into active use in downtown Groton while offering the town oversight and collaboration with Inn Management, Burke said. 

      Architect Brent Maugel, of Maugel Architects in Harvard, outlined the basic goals and objectives of the development, which exists only as a concept and has not been designed yet. Maugel took pains to emphasize his firm’s ties to Groton. Maugel designed Forge and Vine restaurant, the mixed-use property at the Four Corners where Rollstone Bank just opened, and the Pediatrics West Medical Building on Boston Road. Perhaps of greatest local interest was the news that Dan Barton, former head of Groton Historic Districts Commission for many years, currently living in Harvard, will be lead architect for the project. 

      Maugel then outlined the conceptual plan and basic principles guiding the project. He said the Waters House at 11 Lowell Road might contain two or three small boutique retail shops and possibly some short-term guest suites. The proposed new multi-unit building would house some one- and two-bedroom residences. This new building would be designed to complement the other architecturally significant adjacent structures and would be respectful of the size and architectural character of both the Groton Inn to the left and the Waters House to the right. The new structure could possibly feature a mansard roof to match the style of the Waters House and front porches similar to those at the Inn.

     He then discussed three principles which would drive the project goals. He said the first goal would be to repair and renovate the historic Waters House with its eye-catching mansard roof, built in 1782 and remodeled in 1855. He said Groton Inn management intended to maintain the Waters House "for decades to come."

   Second, Maugel said that integration of the property into downtown Groton was desirable, saying that Groton Inn management wants to extend pedestrian paths throughout the town overlay district, connecting other town pedestrian paths. The graphic on this e-page indicates the possibilities for extending pedestrian paths through the town overlay district from Gibbet Hill to Lawrence Academy, through the Waters site property and linking Groton Inn with  pedestrian paths farther down Main Street. 

     Third, since parking is at a premium in the Center, the Groton Inn would reconfigure two existing parking lots that border the housing authority property, which would allow linking parking lots across property lines, improve parking efficiency and gain more spaces. In addition, this approach would link parking spaces so that no new curb cuts would have to be put on the street.

      Maugel emphasized that the project has not yet been designed and exists only as basic concepts and goals. However, he said that he believes that the Town Center Overlay district “will give us the tools to ensure that future design efforts will be informed by the goals and objectives of the Town Center Design guidelines, guidelines which are very sound and we feel would be a great thing for the town.”

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