Residents Like the Center the Way it Is
The unequivocal answer to the question: "How will Groton Center Change in the Future," distilled from numerous public forums and public workshops, is: "not much". According to Planning Board Consultant Flinkler Associates, residents like the Center pretty much the way it is, not wanting to risk damaging it in the name of 'progress' or any other doctrine.
Message Heard 'Loud & Clear'
According to Michelle Collette, Groton Land Use Director, members of the Planning Board and other Boards have heard this message, "loud and clear". Michele Colette agreed that residents are wary of major changes to the Center, wanting to preserve it largely as is, agreeing that, "First, do no harm", is a fair summary of resident attitudes.
Because of such protective attitudes, it became clear that extending the town center overlay district, granting the Planning Board more power to mandate change, is not in the cards due to public opposition. Peter Flinkler commented that without zoning bylaw changes, there could be no 'build-out' of the Center. Planning Board members reiterated the lack of public appetite for granting powers for such a 'build-out', emphasizing that plans for significant development outside the current zoning overlay district, if any, would be submitted to town meeting for approval through the Concept Plan Process.
Residents Want Special
Protection for 3 Areas in Center
The Flinkler Associates report titled, "How Will Groton Center Change in the Future", found residents wanting special protections for three non-contiguous areas of the Center, areas of special beauty and historic significance, areas residents view as expressing an essential Groton character, areas to be accorded a single highly-protected status. Starting with the open bucolic/residential views stretching from Boutwell House about 150 yards along Main Street backdropped by Gibbet Hill, then hop-scotching to the Court Street neighborhood, a street offering a different but equally important sense of the possibility of close-knit community, and then jumping to the Old Burying ground, the ultimate material link to our identity and revolutionary past, all these areas needing special protection status, residents insisting these areas never be despoiled.
Some Adaptive Change OK
in Other Areas
Outside these areas of special protection, residents are willing to accommodate some change, allowing for normal adaptation to changing realities, not wanting to establish an absolute ban on change, but simultaneously not wishing to fundamentally alter the rhythm, tone, and setting of the built environment.
Residents are prepared for change on Station Avenue, a continuing focus of Planning discussion and debate on how to move forward. Although, as Planning Members noted, larger-scale development in this area will be limited by the likely construction of GELD buildings. In addition, Prescott School and the site of the Groton Inn will likely be a focus of Planning initiatives in years to come.
Design Guidelines For Center May Be Developed
Despite not seeking additional zoning authority, the Planning Board is exploring development of a set of Design Guidelines for the Center. The Board believes there is potential value in such codes, but acknowledges that a single set of coherent guidelines may be impossible.
The Primary obstacle is the very different concerns for protection in the three areas identified above. What may be appropriate and reasonable in one of these zones, could lead to the degradation of another zone. Consequently, the Planning Board needs to decide if a single set of guidelines is workable or whether each zone needs its own set of guidelines, and ultimately whether it is reasonable and workable to have three different sets of design rules for each of the different areas of concern within the Center.
HDC's Excellent work
The Board noted Historic Districts Commission's excellent job working on design problems in the Center, mentioning the possibility of expanding design authority of the HDC while confining Planning Board jurisdiction to technical matters such as parking and drainage. Members of the Board further noted the HDC's quality work on the 134 Main Street project, while pointing out jurisdictional conflicts between Planning Board, Design Review Committee and the Historic Districts Commission, leading to confusion misunderstanding and delay, ultimately hoping to use this experience to find ways to limit jurisdictional conflict making the process smoother, easier and more effective.