Groton Clarifies Zoning Changes

by Matt Cooper

The Town of Groton’s zoning committee should finally have an official recommendation regarding zoning changes within the town.

George Frantz, a consultant from George R. Frantz & Associates of Ithaca, has been working with the town zoning committee to re-write and update some of the town’s zoning ordinances. He said the group has finished making their revisions and authorized him to deliver their official draft to the Groton Town Council, which he did roughly two weeks ago.

“I expect the town council to start looking at these changes next month,” he said.

An early draft of the proposed changes drew fire from the Groton business community late last year, with former Groton Business Association President Kris Buchan characterizing them as too restrictive for business growth within the town.

Business leaders approached Frantz and Town Supervisor Glenn Morey with their worries, which Frantz said he was thankful for.

“They had some legitimate concerns,” Frantz said. “A lot of the major changes we’ve made since the first draft are to address those.”

One of the first major changes was the creation of a highway commercial zone at the intersections of Lick Street and Route 222 to permit the development of small-scale retail shops, Frantz said. Two businesses already exist at that intersection, one of which is a motorcycle repair shop.

“That was a fairly easy change to make,” he said. “It’s going to be large enough to accept new businesses and can accommodate the Groton Industrial Park, which is already expanding with the addition of Plastisol.”
Some of the more challenging issues involved businesses run from residences and small auto-repair shops, Frantz said. Originally, their draft restricted home businesses to being within the residence itself. However, once Frantz went and inspected some of the home businesses within the town, he changed his mind.

“We had a few that were located in sheds or garages or other buildings just adjacent to the home,” he said. “We decided that they had a minimal impact and had to stretch our original definition to be a bit more liberal.”

Loosening up the language was a big challenge for the zoning committee, Frantz said. Initially, he and committee members wanted to try and keep business growth concentrated within the village of Groton. Removing the zones that allow for new businesses within the town and introducing ordinances that would put current businesses out of compliance was what brought local business owners to their doorsteps, Frantz said.

One particular instance, pointed out to Frantz by Town Zoning Officer Gary Coats, was the existence of more than a dozen small-scale auto-repair businesses scattered throughout the town. Frantz said that the initial proposal would not have allowed for them but, once again, after taking a look at them he and committee members changed their mind.

“Part of what made us change our decision was the fact that we couldn’t find some of these repair places,” he said. “Gary Coats pointed out that they obviously provide a service to the community and it’s not inconveniencing anyone.”

Those small auto-repair shops will have to remain as they are, Frantz warned.

“We don’t want to see applications for a Monroe Muffler or anything like that.”

“I think we’ve done a lot of clarification and tinkering in the last few months,” Frantz said.

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