Concerns raised about contract zone for West Falmouth development

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FALMOUTH — The Planning Board forwarded a “generally positive” recommendation to the Town Council Tuesday in support of a proposed contract zone that would add 151 housing units in West Falmouth.

But the board also provided the council with several concerns members felt are important to review and discuss before the project is approved.

The Homestead Acresdevelopment would include single-family homes, apartments and some type of retail use on a nearly 52-acre parcel bound by Mountain Road, Route 100 and the Maine Turnpike. The developers are David Chase and Town Councilor Andrea Ferrante and her husband, Matthew Ferrante.

Several residents spoke about the project Tuesday, with most concerned about the impacts on traffic and the school system.

Matthew Ek of Sebago Technics, who represented Chase and the Ferrantes, said the developers are seeking to build a “true neighborhood that would fit in with the rest of Falmouth.”

The project would have 48 apartments and 103 single-family homes, according to the contract zone application, along with a 6,000-square-foot commercial building.

Echoing the concerns raised by residents, Jay Chace, the board’s vice chairman, said members had some doubt about whether the project could be developed without creating “an undue burden on (municipal) resources.”

Jason Cole, another board member, agreed with Chace, saying his biggest concern regarding the proposed contract zone is that “we have a lot of people competing for limited resources, (so) the impacts should really be considered.”

Under the contract zone ordinance, a recommendation from the Planning Board is required before a developer can approach the Town Council and begin negotiations over how the project will be managed.

One of the big issues that came up Tuesday was a request by the developers to lift a growth cap, at least on the first phase of the project.

Several members of the public and the Planning Board mentioned that the purpose of the cap is to help control and manage growth, and suggested the council carefully review that portion of the contract zone application.

“This is not an island,” Tom McKeon, the board chairman, said. “We have a lot of projects coming up with increased density.” He said the council should consider the overall effect of the proposed development not just on West Falmouth, but the entire town.

Another requirement of a contract zone is the inclusion of a public benefit that would not otherwise be available.

Among the public benefits Ek pointed out Tuesday were plans to ensure that 30 percent of the units would be affordable. However, Chace and some members of the public said they didn’t like a proposal to add a three-year sunset clause to the affordability component.

Other public benefits to the project, Ek said, include providing housing for those 55 and over, as well as first-time homeowners, along with walking trails and public parks that would be available to all residents of the town.

In addition, Ek pointed out that the project would be phased in over several years, with 36 single-family homes and a 12-unit apartment building planned in the first phase.

He also pointed out that the contract zone proposal is actually on par with the density already allowed in the Village Mixed Use district that covers the 52-acre property.

Resident David Murdoch opposed the contract zone Tuesday, saying it doesn’t fit in with the nature of West Falmouth.

“I moved to West Falmouth 29 years ago because it was a rural area where the lots were large and I could go into my backyard without seeing my neighbors. You’re taking a wonderful area and will destroy it,” he said.

“The developer will come in and get their profit, but the costs fall on the town,” Murdoch added. “This project will have a big impact on the town; I hope you will consider all the social ramifications.”

Another resident, Steve Dyer also questioned what the town would be getting out of the project – except for a traffic “nightmare” and more children in the schools.

“This is a huge present to the developer and the town is not getting much out of this whole mess,” Dyer said. “This type of development costs the town far more than any new taxes.” 

“This is a terrible thing for a rural neighborhood. It’s too much, too quick and too dense,” he argued.

The contract zone proposal now goes to the Town Council, which must hold at least one public hearing before making a decision.

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

A contract zone proposal would bring 151 new units of housing to West Falmouth. The project requires Town Council approval to move forward.