GROTON -- Developers of a Hindu temple proposed for land along the Littleton town line met with little opposition at a public hearing held by the Conservation Commission.

Proponents of the project have also been conducting hearings with the Planning Board, which they are trying to hold simultaneously to keep members abreast of any changes in the design plan and avoid any holdups in the review process.

The central element of the temple project planned by the New England Shirdi Sai Parivar (NESSP) 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 with future plans calling for the construction of a second building to be used for social functions.

One of a half-dozen concerns raised by the commission in past hearings had been that of parking with the number of spaces forcing the area of disturbed land at the building site into the required 100 foot buffer zone surrounding nearby wetlands.

But wetlands scientist Scott Goddard neutralized the question when he revealed that plans had been altered so that no disturbance would be needed within the 100 foot buffer thus eliminating most of the concerns of the commission.

What remained was mostly related to a small lot at the mouth of the project along Route 119 that holds a single-family home.

That lot, said Goddard, who represented the NESSP, would be cleared and used instead as part of the site's drainage scheme. Along with the elimination of the home's septic system, its removal would improve the site's environmental profile.

Other concerns addressed by Goddard included a report from the state's Natural Heritage group that the project would have no adverse impact on protected species, including the Blanding's turtle which the scientist said would be able to cross the access driveway at all points.

With few questions from the commission and with only some drainage calculations needing to be provided, the hearing was continued to the commission's meeting April 22.

Also Tuesday, commissioners met with DPW Director Tom Delaney to discuss the issue of phragmites, an invasive plant species that threatens shallow wetland and swamps.

"You're not going to have beautiful vistas anymore," said Delaney. "All you're going to see is a wall (of reeds). And there's not a thing you can do about (phragmites) except kill it."

Delaney suggested a chemical combatant or burning to wipe out the plant, which was likely introduced to the area by birds dropping seeds.

Phragmites are native to Europe and when they are fully grown they look like common reeds but with extending strands known as reed beds that can stretch out a quarter of a mile or more. Phragmites are the most abundant along the Atlantic coast and in freshwater and brackish tidal wetlands of the northeastern U.S.

In the right conditions, the strands can spread at 16 feet or more every year, putting down roots at regular intervals. It can grow in damp ground, in standing water up to about 3 feet, or as a floating mat. The erect stems grow from 6 to 19 feet high with the tallest plants growing in areas with hot summers and fertile growing conditions.

"And it kills everything in its path," said Delaney saying that where phragmites grow, wildlife disappears.

According to Delaney, the phragmite problem in Groton is already beyond control with large colonies in nearly every pool of standing water.

The DPW director approached the Conservation Commission to discover whether commissioners had given the issue any serious thought.

"Because it's not going to go away," Delaney said of the problem, adding he would "like to get the ball rolling" with the commission on addressing the issue. 

Agreeing the problem needed to be addressed, commissioners intended to discuss the issue at a future meeting.