GROTON -- According to a representative of the developers of the New England Shirdi Sai Parivar Hindu temple, with the approval process involving the town's land-use boards going smoothly, construction for the building is expected to begin as soon as the snow melts in the spring.
Engineer for the project Ian Rubin gave the prediction after a meeting with the Conservation Commission on Tuesday.
There, Rubin sought the commission's blessing for a planned pedestrian pathway that would lead into the site of the temple from the road.
According to Rubin, the creation of the pathway, a suggestion made by the Planning Board, was made necessary because there would be too little room for a sidewalk along the access road to the temple.
Rubin told commissioners that portions of the footpath, which followed an existing cart path, would be surfaced in crushed gravel covered in bark mulch with foot bridges over low spots in the trail.
Permission by the commission for the trail was needed due to the fact that it would cross partly over the 100-foot buffer zone protecting nearby wetlands.
Members voted to approve it on the condition that no portion of it be constructed with concrete or asphalt and that it be kept clear with regular mowing.
Located along the town line with Littleton, the central element of the temple project will be a main building with two floors that will meet the height requirement in the town's zoning bylaws and a trio of spires with a central spire rising to a height of at least 104 feet.
Expected to seat up to 500 people with parking for 337 vehicles, the temple is to be located on 29 acres and set amid formal gardens that could include a number of water fountains. Future plans call for the construction of a second building to be used for social functions.
Also Tuesday, commissioners voted to approve the creation of up to four parking spaces in the rear of the former Center Fire Station off Station Avenue.
There, Groton Center Farms owner Dan McElroy plans to renovate the historic structure and altering the building's existing appearance to better reflect its original look before it became a fire station in the 1940s. Inside, the ground floor would be converted into a single commercial space, possibly selling produce and renting bicycles and converting the second floor into a residential apartment.
Selectmen voted to approve a purchase-and-sales agreement with McElroy last spring after the former fire station was abandoned with the completion of a new station off Farmers Row.
According to the sale, McElroy agreed to purchase the property for $100,000 having already given the town a $15,000 deposit.
According to McElroy attorney, Robert Collins, plans call for digging up the existing asphalt paving in the front of the building and turning it into a patio area while a strip of land running alongside the structure leading to the rear will be resurfaced as a driveway with permeable material.
When completed, the work will have created up to four parking spaces in the back of the building intended for use by residents and employees of the first floor business.
To do the work, McElroy needed permission from the commission because about 1,500 square feet in the rear of the property lying within 200 feet of the James Brook wetlands area would be disturbed.
Collins said although two full size trees would need to be removed, any disturbance of the area would be mitigated and that the parking spaces would only cover about 900 square feet of the total disturbed area.
Calling the amount of disturbance "minimal," Collins told commissioners McElroy's agreement with the town called for the creation of some parking at the site.
Commissioners voted to approve it.
"It's well thought-out," said member Mary Metzger.
"I think it's a great project," concurred fellow commissioner Marshall Giguere.
Finally, members voted for a suggestion by Historical Commission member Michael Roberts for posting signage around town, including on conservation land, which would inform viewers of features of historical or natural significance.
Roberts said he belonged to a sub-committee created by the Historical Commission to study the possibility of erecting informational signage around Groton as a way to educate residents on their local heritage.
Roberts said he hoped to get funding for the signs from the Community Preservation Committee but otherwise, plans were still in the early stages.
Commissioners gave it their support.
"It would provide an enhancement of our conservation land," said commissioner Bruce Easom.
"I love the idea," added Peter Morrison.