Falmouth council nixes workforce housing plan
FALMOUTH — After establishing a commission a year ago to pursue an affordable housing development on town-owned property, the Town Council Tuesday killed the proposal.
Although councilors praised the Workforce Housing Commission and Developers Collaborative for their work, most had misgivings about the development's location on Woods Road and the financial impact on the town.
The tax increment financing that would cost the town about $50,000 a year for the first 20 years was a deal-breaker for Councilor Tony Payne, who said it was "not in the town's best interest to make that expenditure today." Originally, Payne said, the town's contribution of the land constituted the only major expenditure by the town for the housing.
The physical limitations of the site were also a concern. Councilor Bonny Rodden referred to developers' documents that frequently brought up the restrictions required by the land, including issues with stormwater, ledge and vernal pools.
"The bottom line is it's not a good site; it will take more money to develop," Rodden said. "I've seen how hard the commissioners have worked on this, but that is not a reason to go ahead."
Councilor Joe Wrobleski said he agreed with Payne and Rodden and added that the Plummer-Motz School site would soon be available, a location that the council had discussed before its availability had become definite. Wrobleski added that he would push for an ordinance similar to one in Cape Elizabeth, which requires new subdivisions to include a small number of affordable homes.
But Councilor Dave Libby and Chairman Will Armitage spoke in favor of moving ahead with the Woods Road proposal.
Defending the openness of the process, which was challenged by some residents during a public hearing, Libby asked his colleagues how they and the town would address the need for affordable housing.
"This is the fourth time the town has looked at workforce housing," he said. "I would like to see this council put this out to referendum for the public."
But the council offered no support for a public referendum. When the vote was taken, the order to move forward on the project did not pass, with Payne, Rodden, Wrobleski and Councilor Teresa Pierce voting against continuing the Woods Road plan and Armitage and Libby voting to go ahead. Councilor Cathy Breen was absent.
With councilors still offering support for some type of affordable housing, Director of Long Range Planning Theo Holtwijk said it was up to them to give the commission instructions on how to proceed.
"When you gave the charge to the Workforce Housing Commission," he said, "you were specific about the Woods Road site."
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.