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Expansion of Town Center Overlay District Surfaces During Discussion of Guidelines for District

The Planning Board discussed Design Guidelines for Town Center Overlay District and where to next direct consultant Peter Flinker of Dodson Associates to complete the effort.

Land Use Department Director Michelle Collette told the Board that the contract with Community Opportunities Group included the design guidelines update from Dodson Associates but that the scope of the work and the large amount of input from public meetings and workshops evolved into a lot of open-ended questions.

Initially the $15K contract with Dodson Associates covered edits and additions to the existing Station Avenue Design Guidelines. To do this, Flinker conducted a public, site walk around the center, a half-day public workshop, a town center forum where Dodson identified the elements that are to be preserved, and where there are opportunities for redevelopment. In addition there was also a joint board workshop.

Planning Board member Russ Burke said he believed, "We got a lot of bang for our buck. He made a baseline recommendation that we can build on...We need to step back and look at the original mission - to make Station Avenue Design Guidelines universally applicable. We are putting in a process to expand beyond the overlay district and we don't want to create any obstacles."

Planning Board Chairman John Giger said, "For Peter to deliver an update of the document, we need to give him direction. We are talking about 12 lots (on Station Avenue) 134 Main Street and Prescott School."

Burke said, "It's 13 lots but it's beyond that. We should think about potential candidates to include in this such as Station Avenue to Donelan's. I got a sense from Peter that he could do these guidelines." He added that there could be "more tailored guidelines for some areas using some sort of vision for the downtown."

Giger suggested that the Board needs to "think through whether it wants to expand this," adding that there could be some areas that are not in the overlay district.

Burke stressed, "There is no contextual element to change the center, no clear vision. We've gone through the process of getting some feedback from public engagement and we are getting a sense of consensus."

Collette said that developers are looking for direction and to have a sense of what the town is looking for when they are preparing an application.

She stressed, "The public was loud and clear on the amount of change that is politically acceptable. We need to take it a little bit at a time...The public said that the side of Main Street toward Gibbet Hill should have no change, but the public was open to change on the other side of Main Street."

Burke pointed out, "This is an opportunity for Peter to integrate this in a meaningful way...We could have an umbrella set of principles and concepts and drill down into the 'realms' (the color coded sections of the Flinker presentation)." These include setbacks, infill, multi-family and interconnection of parking lots among other items, but according to Burke do not include single-family houses.

Selectman Josh Degen said he would like to see the work on Design Guidelines under the Dodson contract include Prescott School and Groton Inn property. He also asked if and how the Historic Districts Commission has been included in this effort.

Groton Herald

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