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Council reviews plan to move Falmouth Town Hall, library to school buildings

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Council reviews plan to move Falmouth Town Hall, library to school buildings

FALMOUTH — The Community Facilities Planning Committee on Monday presented its final plan for a "civic campus" proposed for the Plummer-Motz and Lunt school buildings when the School Department moves out in June 2011.

The plan includes moving Falmouth Memorial Library into an expanded version of the Lunt building, moving the Town Hall to the Plummer building and revitalizing the Motz building for use as a community center.

It also calls for various town properties to be sold to offset the cost of the moves, which is estimated at just over $512,000, an impact of 26 cents on the property tax rate.

The total project capital costs would then require borrowing more than $4 million.

"Once the buildings are vacated, we have to do something with them," Town Council Chairwoman Cathy Breen, the committee liaison, said. "We don't want to have tax money used to maintain empty buildings."

Part of the plan also includes a partnership with neighboring OceanView at Falmouth, a retirement facility interested in purchasing land behind the school buildings. OceanView would purchase five acres to build 24 cottages and 20 apartment units.

The market value of the acreage without zoning restrictions is estimated at $1.75 million.

The committee's plan was broken into two tiers, the first of which would begin as soon as the school moves out next year. It includes moving the Town Hall and library to the property, as well as doing minor repairs to the Motz building for use as meeting space.

The second tier would include large-scale renovations or even demolition of the Motz building so a community recreation center could be built. The center would include meeting space, a gymnasium and indoor walking track for recreational activities, and an opportunity to increase the adult education and senior programs in the space. The plan does not include a public swimming pool.

"This proposal leaves the door open if the community wants to do a more elaborate rec center down the road," Breen said.

Monday evening's presentation also included the results of a survey, completed after a public forum was held in early April. The 95 people in attendance were polled, and then the survey was made available online, where nearly 500 more people answered a variety of questions about the properties.

The results from the two populations polled were quite different. For instance, of those who attended the forum, 88 percent said they liked the proposed move of the town offices to the Plummer building, while only 52 percent of online voters indicated they liked the idea.

When asked if they agreed that the library needed to expand, 85 percent of those who attended the forum said so, while only 49 percent of online voters agreed.

"This is about millions of dollars of taxpayers' money," said Councilor Fred Chase, who is also a real estate developer. "There's been tremendous inflation in the construction industry. I think we should explore getting more involved with OceanView. They're the largest taxpayers in town."

Councilor David Libby agreed that he would like to see the town work more closely on the recreation center with OceanView.

"My biggest concern is the economy," he said. "I'm concerned that the buildings being proposed to sell are valued 50 percent higher than they can sell."

Libby said he would like to see this be a 100 percent private-sector project.

No vote was taken on the issue. If a bond referendum is to appear on the November ballot, Breen said the draft would have to be completed by August.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net