Contentious Falmouth housing project back before planners, with fewer units

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FALMOUTH — A proposed development off Blackstrap Road that precipitated a building moratorium is back before the Planning Board in a scaled-down version.

The board was scheduled to meet Tuesday, after The Forecaster’s deadline, to review a proposal by developer Jim Cummings to build an 18-unit duplex project on land bounded by Blackstrap Road, Brookfield Road and the Presumpscot River.

Prior to the Planning Board meeting, Cummings said the project is essentially the same one he originally proposed, but with fewer units. Initially, he was seeking approval to build a total of 32 two- and three-bedroom condos.

Opposition by abutter Whitney Bradford and her neighbors helped lead to a moratorium last fall that temporarily banned construction of multifamily homes in some areas of town.

The revised project of 18 units, called Tuscan Way, would be built on a wooded 18.4-acre parcel, with just over 6 acres constituting the development site, according to documents provided to the Planning Board by Terradyn. Nine duplex buildings would be situated along a private road that connects Blackstrap Road to the town-owned right of way at Brookfield Road.

The original project was 32 units in 16 duplexes clustered on a nearly 3-acre parcel.

This week Bradford said she still has concerns.

“I’m happy that it’s smaller, but still feel it’s too big and doesn’t fit” in the neighborhood, she said. “I believe that adding potentially 18 families and 36 cars is too much for my quiet cul-de-sac.”

“I’m (also) still concerned with the condos (possibly) becoming rentals, light pollution, noise and parking. (And), my neighborhood is (still) not happy about the connectivity (to Brookfield Road),” she added.

Bradford said she expected some of her neighbors to speak out against Cummings’ latest proposal Tuesday, although she said it wouldn’t be so much “against the proposal, but to ask for some changes (or) concessions.”

In addition, she said, “There are still the underlying issues of school enrollment, increased traffic for an already busy commuting area and the fact that there is no (public) sewer.”

Cummings said he hopes the board will approve the smaller version of his original project, but added, “you never know what to expect when going to a Planning Board meeting. Last time we did everything to a T and there were still problems.”

“I’m just going to put my best foot forward,” he said. “The neighbors got me pretty good last time. I’ve never heard so many lies from the audience before.”

Cummings said if the board gives him final approval this week, he should be able to break ground in another month or so and have a few units move-in ready by mid-fall.

Although it will be more difficult to make the smaller development pay, he said, “I have to (find a way) to make it work financially. I can’t stop and just throw (the project) away.”

The development, called Tuscan Way, would be accessed near 80 Blackstrap Road and include nine, two-unit buildings, nearly 13 acres of open space and a bark mulch public trail. The project would also still include a cluster septic system, which drew criticism the last time around.

Materials submitted to the Planning Board by Terradyn Consultants, Cummings’ engineering firm, state the current proposal follows new rules regarding “the allowable density for duplexes in the Residential Growth Zoning District.”

As part of its development moratorium, the Town Council last fall worked to amend an ordinance that had inadvertently provided an incentive for multifamily units in Falmouth’s new growth districts over single-family homes.

“Tuscan Way development was updated to reflect the ordinance changes,” the memo from Terradyn Consultants said.

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

The new Tuscan Way development off Blackstrap Road in Falmouth now includes nine duplexes instead of the original 16.