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Last Minute Compromise Saves Anytime Fitness Special Permit Application

In their efforts to comply with Planning Board recommendations, Thursday night Anytime Fitness, which is proposing to move its location from its current, north Main St. location, across the street to the site of a former Groton schoolhouse, presented a revised landscape plan, a porous concrete drainage system for the southern side of the driveway and made adjustments to the number of parking spaces that will be 'green banked' and identified for future use.

Engineer Bruce Ringwall of GPR Inc. told the Board that of the 40 parking spaces set aside for the business, the initial plan is to build 29 while 'green banking' the 11 remaining spaces. Green banking is a method that will use gravel for those spaces, then cover them with loam and seed. "This will make the transition to actual parking spaces easier," Ringwall said.

Anytime Fitness also proposed using porous concrete blocks that are 2.5 feet wide by four feet long to allow drainage from the road to be absorbed into the reservoir. "These panels are a substantial additional cost, but the drainage will work and it follows the LID (Low Impact Development) guidelines," Ringwall said. Lastly, landscape architect Lorayne Black presented the updated plan for greater planting height to block headlights from shining into the street.

With no further questions, Planning Board Chairman Russ Burke called for a vote to close the public hearing. Once a public hearing is closed, there can be no additional input - only clarification - from the applicant or the public. Next step for the planners was to review and vote on any waiver requests from the applicant, followed by an actual vote on the Special Permit Application.

Burke told his colleagues that he felt that the Anytime Fitness owner had been 'intractable' on a suggestion from Burke that the owner place the building facing sideways on the lot. Owner Anthony VivoAmore told Planners at an earlier meeting that it was important for his business that the building faces the main street. Burke stressed that he would not vote for a waiver regarding the location for the three parking spaces in the front that are within 20 feet of the Rte. 119 right-of-way. However, his four colleagues, John Giger, Ray Capes, Carolyn Perkins, and Jason Parent felt that the waiver was acceptable, with Perkins commenting that Anytime Fitness "has gone to extraordinary measures" in their efforts to accommodate the Planning Board requests.

Burke was adamant, stating that if the waiver is approved, "I can't see voting for this application." A special permit requires five of the seven planning board members to vote in the affirmative, and there were only five members present at this meeting. If there is one no vote, then the applicant would have to appeal to Superior Court or Land Court.

Planner Jason Parent noted that it was really about two parking spaces, and colleague John Giger then calculated that the net effect on the front parking area was small, amounting to "about five feet." Giger then worked with the applicant's team to craft a compromise that would take three parking spaces in the back that had been earmarked for 'green banking' and make them active spaces, 'green bank' the three spaces in the front, and increase the regular parking spaces in the rear by one, for a total of 10 spaces - not 11 - to be 'green banked'. He also proposed that any change to the parking plan to turn the 'green banked' spaces into regular spaces would require written permission of the Planning Board but would not require modification of the Special Permit. With Burke conceding to this compromise, the vote was unanimous to grant the requested waivers based on Giger's proposal. The Board then gave a unanimous vote to approve the Special Permit for Anytime Fitness.

Groton Herald

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