Groton Town Council seeks public comments on future of Noank Gardens property
Groton — Single-family homes, sale or lease of the land to the Noank Fire District, affordable housing, or a town park are among the potential options the town has identified for the Noank Gardens property.
The options for the approximately 6-acre property at 42 Smith Lane come after the Town Council voted last year to end an agreement that allowed the Noank School Public Gardens Task Force to cultivate the site and directed staff to provide potential uses for the land, all of which would include a small public garden.
The task force has created a community garden, with garden beds, a giving garden, a memorial garden, and trees, on the property that once housed the Noank Elementary School and temporarily the senior center.
The Town Council is seeking feedback on the long-term options for the property that the town has now identified, along with any other ideas the public may have, before the council makes a decision, said Jon Reiner, the town’s director of planning and development services.
The council plans to discuss the options at its June 9 Committee of the Whole meeting, when representatives of the Noank Fire District, Conservation Commission and open space groups are slated to speak with the council, said Town Manager John Burt.
The Conservation Commission said in a May 20 memo that it continues to support keeping the land as open space.
Reiner said the options represent “big picture” policy directions that the staff looked at and now is presenting to initiate dialogue with the council, as well as the public.
In a May 21 memo to the council, Burt outlined the potential options for the town-owned land that he said is appraised at $716,900 and located in a low-density residential zone.
One option is to sell the land, or part of it, to a developer for single-family home lots. The town maintains the property could accommodate 26 lots, while the fire district’s position is that it could hold 8 lots, according to Burt’s memo.
Another option is to sell or lease the property to the Noank Fire District.
Michael Noel, a member of the Noank Fire District Executive Committee, said the district wants to keep the parcel as open space and manage the land. He said he envisions the parcel as a park, similar to what exists now, except with the addition of playground equipment for children.
The town leases another property next to the firehouse to the fire district, which maintains the property with basketball and tennis courts.
Another option is to sell the land to the Groton Housing Authority, or another entity, for affordable housing or “a mix of market rate and affordable housing,” according to Burt’s memo.
Another possibility is for the town to keep the parcel as open space, the memo states. Ideas under that option include a “fully realized park, sporting fields, a tree lot and an arboretum.”
The memo notes that a fully-realized park would require Capital Improvement Program funds for design, construction and maintenance. A wooded lot would require minimal funds and potentially the use of volunteers.
An arboretum would also require additional funds to create and maintain, the memo states.
Sports fields would also require funds. The memo states the property could host a full sized field and one smaller field.
Burt said residents can email comments to email@example.com and they will be distributed to the council and read into the record.
The June 9 meeting is a Town Council Committee of the Whole meeting, which does not include a public comment section, but people will be able to speak virtually under public comment at a later Town Council meeting, Burt added.
Depending on the option the council ultimately chooses, a public hearing also may be required, he said.
The town’s Noank Gardens report is available at: https://www.agendasuite.org/iip/groton/agendaitem/details/2892