Changes at Tidewater Farm in Falmouth could include razing historic buildings

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FALMOUTH — The developer of Tidewater Farm is seeking Town Council approval for several changes to the development’s master plan.

Among the changes being contemplated, developer Nathan Bateman said in an interview, are a proposal to replace a planned 75-room inn with 40 units of multifamily housing and razing of the historic barn and farmhouse on the property.

Tidewater Farm is a mixed-use development off U.S. Route 1 with access to the Presumpscot River estuary. The property was sold for development in 2005 and construction began in earnest around 2008.

Bateman said market forces and shifting priorities require the changes. He said the barn and farmhouse are dilapidated and uninhabitable in their current state, and have been a target for vandals.

The original master plan for Tidewater Farm called for tearing down the farmhouse and putting up a commercial building, which could include office space or other permitted uses.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension intended to use the barn as part of its demonstration garden project at Tidewater, but Bateman said this week that the building can’t be used for any purpose.

The goal now, he said, is to perhaps tear down the barn and farmhouse and turn over the surrounding acreage to a local conservation group, which might be the Falmouth Land Trust, although nothing has been finalized.

Tommy Johnson, president of the land trust, said Tuesday that nothing could be confirmed because no deal has been struck and no papers have been signed.

However, he did call the possible conservation land at Tidewater “a jewel that many land organizations would be very happy to have,” adding it “could benefit the community to see that property better utilized.”

Bateman said if the barn and farmhouse were torn down and given over to conservation, he would be willing to build an access road and provide water and sewer service to the site, if necessary.

Johnson said discussions with Bateman have been taking place for more than a year, and turning the barn and farmhouse property over for conservation is “certainly something the council is putting a lot of pressure on the developer to make happen.”

Bateman admitted it’s taken longer than anyone anticipated to finalize the development plans for Tidewater, but said he’s hopeful council action on the proposed amendments to the master plan might come no later than the end of the year.

However, until some agreement can be reached, Bateman said, “we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place” in determining the ultimate fate of the barn and farmhouse buildings, in particular.

Bateman said he’s waiting on proposed language from the town regarding the revised master plan, and has to review the document before the formal process can begin.

Amanda Stearns, Falmouth’s community development director, said Monday that she’s been asked by Town Manager Nathan Poore to “rededicate time to this project” in order to get it off the docket.

She said discussions with Bateman about possible revisions to the Tidewater master plan have been occurring on and off for the past year or more.

Stearns said the requested amendments to the development district “occurred at the same time that the master plan was slated to expire. (So), the council decided … that the zoning requests needed to include review and updating of all the legal documents.”

“The council appointed a subcommittee of two councilors to work with staff on this review,” Stearns said, and “there have been multiple exchanges of information between the subcommittee and Tidewater” since then.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

The historic farmhouse at the Tidewater Farm development in Falmouth could be razed for commerical development, or the lot could be donated for conservation.

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