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Planners Disagree on GELD Design

The Design Review Committee (DRC) presented its recommendation and findings on the new Groton Electric Light Department building to the Planning Board. DRC serves as advisors to the Planning Board, and has no permit granting authority. Their charge is to look at all aspects of the project through the lens of the Station Avenue Overlay District.

DRC Chairman Dan Barton reported that they had "reviewed the project very favorably," adding that the report is a draft and will be formally voted on by his committee in the next few days. "We would like to look at construction documents, but I'd like to thank the GELD design team and Attorney Bob Collins for his assistance. It was a very good process. The plan shows the benefit of going through the design review process. We would like to continue to review this with the Planning Board, and provide ongoing assistance." He noted that DRC came into the review process somewhat late, but that they worked together to address any issues. Asked if he preferred that GELD not locate on Station Avenue, Barton said his personal preference perhaps would be to locate it elsewhere but that was not what DRC was asked to address.

Barton, along with member Lorayne Black, told Planners that they looked at core values, including sustainability and Low Impact Development. They are awaiting more information on the building itself. He pointed out the pergola and trellis addition, the small sitting area on top of the stonewall, the circular seating area to attract walkers in the area and addition of the flagpole. Barton said that DRC encouraged GELD designers to build the structure so that it could accommodate a second story in the future, which they did.

GELD Attorney Bob Collins concurred with Barton adding that it was a very good process and very good give-and-take between the two parties.

Planner Tim Svarczkopf said that he is an electric ratepayer and he doesn't see how it saves him any money. "This is a 15,000 sq. ft. ranch on Station Avenue and I want to know how it will fit in with the rest of the development of Station Avenue." Black replied, "They (GELD) paid a lot of attention to the streetscape."

Barton stressed that there was once was a "vision for Station Avenue and politics did not allow it to happen. A public utility building can be an asset. The front of the building is quite nice. There are a whole lot of reasons why GELD is building there and not moving. The building has a lot of attention to detail. It will be a pleasant place to walk by. It doesn't prevent anything else from happening on other properties."

Svarczkopf retorted, "It's abominable. I will not support it, the cupola is cartoonish, and I will not support it." Svarczkopf also objected to the GELD logo that was incorporated into the cupola design.

Barton continued, "The building has a nice rhythm with the use of glass. The rear building is neat and tidy. There is a real benefit to having the asphalt here and away from the Rail Trail."

Planner George Barringer asked about lighting plans and snow storage locations. GELD Manager Kevin Kelly said that GELD would like to use LED fixtures if possible and they are still looking at appropriate fixtures.

Barton added that DRC would also like to see the proposal for signs when that part of the project has been designed.

Planning Board voted to continue the public hearing to Thursday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Groton Herald

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