Action prepares former Falmouth school property for sale

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FALMOUTH — Town councilors Monday approved orders to allow the town to purchase land and remove federal use restrictions on the site of the proposed Plummer-Motz and Lunt school redevelopment project.

In unanimous votes, the Town Council authorized acquisition of 133 acres of undeveloped land along Blackstrap Road, known as the “100-Acre Woods” property, for $1.16 million.

The town is required by federal rules to acquire other land before restrictions can be removed on the 21-acre parcel where the former schools sit.

In 1981, Falmouth accepted a National Park Service grant that restricted future development of the site and limited future use to public outdoor recreation. The town is now in the process of selling most of the parcel to neighboring OceanView retirement community.

But before the pending sale can be completed, the town must transfer the use restrictions to another property of equal or greater value, according to Town Manager Nathan Poore.

The school site is appraised at $1.25 million, while the 100-Acre Woods property is valued at $1.2 million, Poore told the council. The town should have little difficulty acquiring land to make up the $50,000 balance, he said.

Poore also gave the council an update on feasibility studies being conducted by OceanView and its consultants as part of the redevelopment project. The studies explore the possibility of moving Falmouth Memorial Library and creating a community center in the old Plummer-Motz and Lunt schools.

“The studies are on course for reporting to the council in October,” Poore said.

Councilor Tony Payne said the council and the public need to be kept closely informed about progress of the studies. “As we move forward, we have to have regular check-ups and public process,” he said.

In other council business, a zoning amendment was introduced to limit first-floor and gross-area square footage for commercial property in the Route 1 Business District.

The amendment would limit new property to a footprint of 30,000 square feet – about the size of the Staples store in the Shops at Falmouth Village. Gross area would be limited to 60,000 square feet, or slightly larger than the former Shaw’s supermarket site.

Retail grocery stores and entertainment properties, such as movie theaters, would be limited to 60,000 square feet, regardless of the footprint.

“This is a bold step for Falmouth,” Councilor Bonny Rodden said. “We cherish the character of our town, and want to retain it.”

She said the amendment would help create a business district that is “lucrative, pedestrian-friendly, and human-sized.”

The amendment will be discussed at a public meeting on Aug. 13.

William Hall of The Forecaster can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.