Jan 292012

The award-winning Chamber Chorus from Groton-Dunstable Regional High School has been invited to represent the United States of America by performing in a number of venues at the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England. To help make attending the Olympics a reality, the Indian Hill Big Band has volunteered to help them reach their goal of $130,000 by performing a benefit concert at the high school. The concert will take place on Thursday, February 9 at 7:00 pm.

The G-D Chamber Chorus committed to an “all or none” approach; all members would attend or the group would not go to London. Under Music Director Tim Savoy, the group of 10-12 graders specialize in performing a cappella pieces in a broad range, from classical to contemporary, using 8 to 14 part harmonies. In regional competitions held in New York and Philadelphia, they won first place in the Small Mixed Chorus category in each of the past three years, along with several best solo and best section awards.  Due to their success, G-D Chamber Chorus was approached by Kingsway International Concerts to perform at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The Chamber Chorus will open the concert with several of the songs they plan to perform at the Olympics, and then turn the stage over to the Indian Hill Big Band to play a full concert of jazz and blues standards that have made the band so popular throughout the region. To add a fun twist to the concert, the band has invited some G-DRSD faculty members and a few of the talented students from the high school”s music program to sit in on a few numbers. Please join us at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 9th in the Black Box Theater at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, 703 Chicopee Row, Groton. Tickets may be purchased online at the Chamber Chorus web site and will be sold at the door:  $15 for adults, $10 for students.

100% of the proceeds will be used to help these outstanding young vocalists take advantage of this unique opportunity to represent the United States in a very special way on an international stage. You can share their pride by joining the Indian Hill Big Band by giving them your support at this concert. You can also find information for making a tax-deductible donation on their website: www.gdchamber2012.com

Jan 272012

Donations of gift cards are being sought by community organizers trying to help the five families displaced by a three alarm fire last Sunday in the Petapawag Place apartment complex on Lowell Road near Main Street. Two apartments in a five-unit building were heavily damaged, but all five units had their power and water service shut off, forcing all residents to find other housing.

Fran Stanley, the town’s Housing Coordinator, worked as a resident with Karen Toumi, Assistant to the Groton Commissioners of Trust Funds to set up a central collection point for donations. They asked that residents who want to help purchase and donate “gift cards from area stores such as Donelans’, CVS, and Shaw’s can help replace food and toiletries. Gift cards to a general purpose store such as a Target (selling clothes, housewares, sporting goods, toys) can help with the replacement of other items.”

Gift cards can be mailed or dropped off to Karen Tuomi”s attention Town Hall, 173 Main Street, Groton, MA 01450.

In a email from Stanley, she wrote: “People who are open to your donation reaching beyond these five families, you are welcome to make a
contribution to the Community Children”s Fund. This fund is administered by the Commissioners of Trust Funds and helps Groton
children in numerous ways. Checks can be sent to the same Town Hall address.”

The damaged apartment building and 20 other units in the complex are owned by the Groton Housing Authority. The Petapawag Place fire started in the space above the kitchen ceiling and below the floor of the second floor of Unit D, Groton Fire Chief Joe Bosselait said, and the state fire marshal’s office was leading the investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

Jan 262012

In a press release issued by Town Manager Mark Haddad today, he disclosed how the town administration has moved forward in the search for a new central fire station site since voters narrowly rejected the purchase of the “Sacred Heart” church property during the 2011 Fall Town Meeting. The article to purchase the .92 acres lot at 279 Main Street as the intended site for a new central fire station required a two-thirds majority, but fell short, with 199 voters approving and 112 opposing the the $325,000 purchase.

In the wake of the defeat, Haddad, Fire Chief Joe Bosselait and representatives of the Board of Selectmen interviewed each member of the town’s ad hoc Fire Station Site Selection Committee, looking for more information on the committee’s processes, the individual member’s thoughts about the process, and suggestions on ways to move forward.

Also, according to the release:

The Board of Selectmen has focused their review on the original Tier 1 Sites identified by the Center Fire Station Relocation Committee last Spring. Some of the sites originally identified were not pursued at the time due to cost of the land or the land owner was not interested in selling their land. The Board of Selectmen reached out to the land owners of several sites to determine if circumstances have changed since last Spring.

Farmers Row SiteGoogle Maps

Lawrence Homestead Trust Site on Farmer's Row

One of the sites identified by the Center Fire Station Relocation Committee that was of interest to the Board of Selectmen for further study is land owned by the Lawrence Homestead Trust on Farmer”s Row that abuts the current Public Safety Building. The land is approximately 11 acres and is currently classified as Chapter 61A Agriculture Land. The Board believes that carving out a 2+ acre site closest to the Public Safety Building would provide a good location for the Center Fire Station. The Board has reached out to the Trustees of the Lawrence Homestead Trust to determine their interest in this potential acquisition. Discussions are on-going and the Board hopes to have a resolution on this within the next month. The Board is in the process of determining value and suitability of this land and is working with the Trustees to determine the viability of this acquisition.

In discussions before, and during Fall Town Meeting discussions about the Site Selection Committee’s process, chairman Don Black said one reason that the Farmer’s Row site hadn’t made the cut for further consideration in part because it was not served by town sewer. Extending the town sewer about a quarter of a mile to the site would cost several hundred thousand dollars, several sources said; a relatively small percentage of the estimated total cost of $5-6 million dollars for a new Central Fire Station.

Haddad’s press release confirmed that the town is also looking at the Prescott School site on Main Street, one of three “finalist” sites investigated by the committee. It also says “land owned by the Electric Light Commission on Station Avenue is still under active consideration.”

It concludes:

The Board of Selectmen is planning on holding public hearings over the next several months prior to the Spring Town Meeting to obtain input from residents and the general public on these possible sites for the Center Fire Station. Additional information will be released as it becomes available. In the meantime, residents are encouraged to provide input on this matter by contacting the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager either through email at Selectmen@townofgroton.org or by writing to the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager at 173 Main Street, Groton, Massachusetts.

Jan 252012

The Groton-Dunstable Drama Guild is proud to present their third annual Festival of One-Act Plays on Friday, February 3, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, February 4, at 2 p.m and 7 p.m. in the Groton-Dunstable High School Black Box Theatre.

This year’s festival is a friendly inter-class competition of plays. Each class is fielding a play, a student director, cast, and stage and lighting design in preparation for the competition. Actors are busy learning lines and developing their characters in the weeks leading up to the show. Outside judges have been invited to view Friday night”s performance; an award ceremony announcing the winners will follow Saturday night”s show.

The senior class will present “Stop the Clocks, An Abstract Play” by Keith Badham that uses 15 short scenes of trials and tribulations to reveal the meaning of life.
Director: Maria Smith.
Ensemble: Meag Biggs, Joey Dussault, Lauren Finch, Rose Gannon, Beckie Glennie, Ben Icenogle, Kerry Norton, Marisa Olson

The junior class’s entry is “Tracks,” ä drama by Peter Tarsi. Trapped in a subway station and eager to escape, a group of people must decide which train to take. Will it lead to Heaven or Hell? Though basically good people, each has committed a serious sin, making their final destination uncertain.
Director: Sam Biasi.
Cast: The Homeless Girl: Shannon Doherty-Keelan. The Old Man: John Michael Stroffolino. The Lawyer: Caroline Cocossa. The Professor: Troy Jenkins. The Nun: Margaret Blagbrough. The Businesswoman: Jessica Cernak. The Businessman: Garrett Rousseau. The High School Girl: Breanne Happell. The High School Boy: Micah Sheffield. The Waitress: Heather Cole.

The sophomore class presents “One Lane Bridge, A Ghost Story,” by Stephen Gregg. On a snowy night, Eli, a new driver, has agreed to drive Samantha, a friend of a friend, into town. As the car creeps along the winding mountain canyon roads, they tell stories to scare each other and pass the time. When Samantha”s story hits a nerve, Eli, wanting to put an end their trip together as fast as possible, begins to speed. What will happen when they cross the one lane bridge?
Director: Emily Gaines.
Cast: Eli: Lori Brackett. Samantha: Adrianna Barranco. Narrator: Amanda Kennedy. Narrators: Zach Berard, Gianna M. Hitsos, Jennifer Li, Rachel Olson, Sarah Stevens, and Hannah Tellier.

The freshmen class presents “Math for Actors,” a comedy by Emily C.A. Snyder. Studious Kate tries her best to tutor the easily distracted and full-of-himself actor, Keith, in trigonometry. Keith”s flair for the dramatic exasperates her until they find a common denominator.
Director: Jack Phelps.
Cast: Kate: Caroline Phelps. Keith: John Killian.

Tickets are $10 for regular admission; $8 for students and senior citizens.

Jan 252012

At first glance, the statistics for the Groton single Family home market for 2011 seem very similar to those of 2010. Not only was the average price close ($428,242 in 2010 vs. $430,316 in 2011) but the median sale price and the price per square foot were equally close.

The sale of the Lathrop / J. Geils farm on Old Ayer Road to the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts skewed the 2011 statistics a bit, so I removed that outlier from the “sold” list to get a more reliable picture. Looking at the residential market without that transaction shows that the average sale price for 2011 was $415,125, a 4% decline from 2010. At the peak of the last economic bubble in 2005, the average sale price was $585,451.

The average price per square foot in 2010 was $174; in 2011 it dropped slightly to $170. In some areas of the country houses are valued solely on the square footage. I have never thought that this was a very practical way to assess homes in our area, since we have such a wide variety of housing both in types of homes and ages. But as an overall annual figure I think it has some accuracy.

The number of days that a house stayed on the market increased slightly, by about a week. On average, in 2010, it took 160 days to sell a house. In 2011, again without the Thomas More College property included, the figure was 166 days.

Homeowners who are selling are frequently concerned that lowering the price on their home will bring them an even lower offer. That may be true, but those offers are frequently rejected. This is demonstrated by the average list price for Groton homes in 2011 was $425,091. The average sale price was $415,125, just a few percent less. Rarely are these figures far apart.

The graph below shows the number of homes that have sold in various price ranges last year. It will come as no surprise to most people that more lower end houses are available and are selling.

If you have any questions about the market or an real estate concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at MRM Realty or call me at 978 448 3031.

Selling Prices of Groton Homes in 2011 Jane Allen

Selling Prices of Groton Homes in 2011

Jan 222012

All boys and girls ages 10 to 14 are invited to participate in the local level of competition for the 2012 Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship. The local competition will be held Sunday, January 29 from 1-4 p.m. Peter Twomey Youth Center, located behind the Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School North. The event is free, and entry forms will be available at the door.

The Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship is sponsored annually with winners progressing through local, district, and state competition. International champions are announced by the K of C international headquarters based on scores from the state-level competitions. All boys and girls 10 to 14 years old are eligible to participate and will compete in respective age divisions. All contestants on the local level are recognized for their participation in the event.

This will be the 9th straight year that the Groton Knights have hosted this event. During each of these years, the local council has had at least one winner make it all the way to the state finals, with two of these participants being crowned State Free Throw Champions. For additional information contact: Vincent at 978-448-6071 vincentpinque@charter.net or Bob at 978-448-5266 / robert.tocci@rcn.com.

Jan 222012

A three alarm fire in a five-unit apartment building at 29 Lowell Road, just off Main Street, heavily damaged two Petapawag Place apartments just after noon on Sunday.

Groton Fire Chief Joseph Bosselait said: “We had heavy burning in one apartment (Unit D) that extended into an adjacent apartment (Unit C). Three other apartments (Units A, B, and E) seem to be in pretty good shape. We had a great stop from the guys; they had heavy fire up in that top floor and they stopped it good.” Bosselait said Sunday afternoon that no injuries were reported and all five displaced families have places to go for housing.

Mickey, Aimee Dunn’s big black cat, gave her the first hint that something was wrong about noon. Dunn has lived in Unit C with her daughter for “four or five years.” Sunday morning, she said: “I was on the ground floor. My cat was with me, and he took off. I started smelling some smoke and went upstairs and the kitchen was full of smoke. I immediately unplugged some stuff, my appliances, and called the fire department.”

Groton’s 911 dispatchers received the her call and sounded the first alarm at 12:24 p.m. In addition to the quickly responding Groton firefighters, mutual aid units from Ayer, Dunstable, Pepperell, Townsend, and possibly other towns responded.

Her neighbors in Unit D, Jerome Tartar and his family, were at church when the fire started in their apartment, Dunn said.

Around 3:00 p.m., Bosselait met with the five families in the Petapawag Place office, explaining that residents of the lightly damaged units would be allowed to retrieve belongings later. Aimee and Mickey huddled on a chair under a grey blanket as the chief explained what they should do next. Mickey snuggled in Dunn’s lap, partly under the warm blanket, but was scared, shaking, and nervous, she said.

The apartment building and 20 other units in the complex are owned by the Groton Housing Authority. The building did not have sprinklers, Bosselait said. Other units in the complex have smoke and fire alarms that report problems directly to the fire department, but the building that burned did not.

Ellen Todd, a Housing Authority Board member was across the street at the First Parish Church when the fire broke out. “My husband came in to the meeting and said ‘Petapawag is on fire’ and I stood up and told them, sorry — I’m on that board; I have to go.” She and other board members were still on the scene late Sunday afternoon.

According to the town web site, “In 1990, the Groton Housing Authority completed its first affordable housing complex which it owns and operates with state aided subsidies. Known as Petapawag Place, the complex consists of 20 rental units of elderly/handicapped housing and 5 rental units of family housing.”

Bosselait said late this afternoon that the state Fire Marshal’s office was on the scene, and that the investigation into the cause of the fire was just beginning.

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Jan 192012

The friendly recycling crew at Devens Regional Household Hazardous Products Collection Center

Groton Local is launching its new theme for 2012 — “Re-Think!” — by “talking trash” (solid waste, that is) on Thursday, January 26, at 7:00 p.m., at the Nashua River Watershed Association (594 Main Street/Route 119).

Tessa David, North Central Regional Solid Waste Coordinator and Groton’s “Queen of Recycling,” and Jim Hubert, local contractor and Groton Local board member, will engage in an evening of true stories. People — homeowners, business owners, and tradespeople alike — come across hazardous material all the time. Sometimes the product is known; sometimes not. What to do — what not to do! Tessa will explain the town’s expanded schedule and pricing for its Hazardous Material Disposal / Collection Days at the Devens Regional Household Hazardous Products Collection Center collection site. For public and environmental health reasons, this is an important subject, and all are welcome to this free educational program. For more information, contact Jim Hubert 978-302-5611.

Jan 162012

A number of issues relating to Groton’s town center, including zoning proposals in the draft Master Plan, have been under discussion recently. I am writing to add some thoughts to these discussions, especially with respect to a proposed overlay zoning district.

Central to the character of Groton as a whole is the relationship between the built and the natural environments. Groton’s visual landscape and natural resources are extraordinary. We are fortunate to still have much of that landscape today. Groton Center expresses that relationship both in its setting and its history. The structures in the center communicate Groton’s past and the settings of buildings and views from the center reflect Groton’s overall relationship with the land. When Charles Eliot worked with Groton in 1963 to create our first Master Plan, he identified the critical relationships among residential, commercial and open space in the center and developed zoning strategies to protect them. Because of that vision the center’s special character endures today.

One of the zoning strategies referenced in the new draft Master Plan and being promoted by at least some town officials is a blanket overlay district in the center that would allow increased density and uses. In my opinion this is one of the worst planning ideas possible. An overlay district allows either the original zoning or, by Special Permit, new uses and increased densities. Although regulations and design review can influence proposals in an overlay district, it is difficult to deny any proposal that addresses the regulations. Unfortunately, creating regulations to protect “character” are effectively impossible. Adding historically accurate architectural details to new buildings does not substitute for the real historic character and landscape setting we have now.

Although the Town did adopt an overlay district for Station Avenue, this is an area where higher density or different uses would not detract from the character of the town. Main Street, however, is a jewel. To construct new development along it at the densities being considered would block the views and fill the spaces that create its rhythm and landscape character.

I wish to be clear that I am not opposed to change. We must be willing and able to adapt to changing needs. The Town demonstrated that flexibility in adopting new zoning for Station Ave and in approving high density at 134 Main Street. The loss of the Inn has further changed the center as will future redevelopment of that property. Prescott School will be changing and I hope we will have a new fire station in the center. Given the number of properties already in flux we must be especially cautious.

Over the next few months directions for the future of the town center are likely to be set. For everyone who cares about the future of this special area, this is a time to take notice and become engaged.

Bob Pine