Use of Groton road at issue in proposal by Chelsea Groton Bank

Groton - Chelsea Groton Bank is hoping to develop the vacant former Tim Hortons doughnut shop off Gold Star Highway in Groton and may need the town's help to do so.

The former doughnut shop, which closed its doors abruptly in 2010, is located at the intersection of Routes 184 and 117, with a parking lot accessible only through the dead-end portion of the town-owned Candlewood Road.

A conceptual plan presented to the Town Council this week shows the bank's desire to open Candlewood Road back out to Route 117 to allow for an exit and entrance for the bank. The plans also call for a barrier that would halt traffic midway through Candlewood to discourage drivers from using the bank parking lot as a cut-through.

Chelsea Groton Bank President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Rauh said the bank's plan is to have approvals in place by next year so it can start renovations and shift the existing branch from across the street to the new location.

"We think this property will be better for our customers and better for our employees," Rauh said.

Chelsea Groton has already secured a certificate of appropriateness for their renovation plans from the Historic District Commission. Despite the commercial flavor of the area, the land sits in a town-designated historic district.

In presenting the plans to the Town Council Tuesday, Town Manager Mark Oefinger said there are a few issues to consider should the bank apply for and gain approval of a site plan.

The major issue is "the bank is proposing to use a public right-of-way for private purposes," Oefinger said. Candlewood Road provides access to several different property owners. And while it has frontage on three roads, access is only provided from Route 184.

Conceptual plans show creation of a right-hand turn entrance and exit to and from Route 117. While the right-hand turns "are great on paper," Oefinger said they fail to keep every driver from taking a left turn and thereby could pose a traffic hazard.

"It is in my opinion a challenged property in terms of its access points," Oefinger said. "They would like improved access."

To accommodate the bank's plans, the council could decide at some point to formally abandon the road or provide the bank with an easement or license agreement. The council appeared to be amenable to the ideas with a unanimous vote to show they had no opposition to the conceptual plans.

Rauh said the council's opinions were an important first step.

Among other planned upgrades at the site, Rauh said, is two drive-through windows, a drive-up ATM and a layout that provides better privacy for customers during transactions.

g.smith@theday.com

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