Contract zone for West Falmouth housing development clears 1st hurdle

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FALMOUTH — A contract zone proposal for 151 new housing units in West Falmouth has cleared the first hurdle in a long approval process.

The three-member Community Development Committee on July 14 unanimously recommended the project, which would be developed by David Chase and Town Councilor Andrea Ferrante and her husband.

The contract zone, which would allow 48 apartments and 103 single-family homes, now goes to the Planning Board and Town Council.

Both boards are required to hold public hearings and must ultimately agree with the CDC that the project complies with the Comprehensive Plan before it can be approved.

The project would be built on a nearly 52-acre parcel bound by Route 100 and Mountain Road. Along with the housing, the project would also include a 6,000-square-foot commercial building.

Chase previously said the goal of the development is to create several tight-knit neighborhoods connected by sidewalks and interior roadways that would also include shared open space.

Amanda Stearns, the town’s community development director, said this is the first project to be considered under Falmouth’s new contract zoning rules, so there are still some unknowns about how the process will work.

She said considerations for the CDC, whose members include Councilors Caleb Hemphill, Claudia King and Ned Kitchel, included the “intensity, size and style” of the proposed development.

The committee also had to determine whether the proposal is consistent overall with the Comprehensive Plan, and consistent with the current zoning ordinances in that part of town.

Under a contract zone, the developers must also provide a public benefit and show that the benefits to be accrued would not otherwise be available.

Last week Stearns said the CDC had determined the project “meets the demands for diversity in housing, which is something the town wants to promote” and “in general it’s a positive” addition to Falmouth.

The CDC met several times with the developers before reaching those conclusions, she said.

“The process seems to be working well,” Stearns added. “There’s been a lot of back and forth and the developer has been amenable to discussion.”

The public benefits the developers are offering include a new trail system, a neighborhood park and making a general contribution of $1,300 per single-family home to the town.

Stearns said other attractive elements of the development are the “village scale” of the project and that the developers will build and sell more than 30 of the single-family homes at “entry-point prices.”

Several of the units, including some apartments and single-family homes, would also be set aside for residents 55 and older.

Under the contract zone proposal, the 48 apartments would be spread out across four buildings of 12 units each. Five of the apartments would be set aside for those 55 and up, along with 10 of the single-family units.

Thirty-four of the single-family units would also be priced at about $280,000, which should make them attractive for young families, the CDC said.

Along with reviewing whether the project is consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, the CDC also looked at Falmouth’s economic development strategy, which notes “a very low share of young adults,” particularly those 25 to 29.

The economic report also states the available housing in town is too expensive for many young adults and seniors to afford, while at the same time the region is seeing an overall housing shortage.

Kitchel said although he’s “always wary of big projects due to the impacts, with a contract zone we have control and leverage for how it gets built out.”

As part of its report to the Town Council and Planning Board, the CDC is recommending that the contract zone requires the development to take place in three phases over several years.

The first phase of development would have an 18-month window, and consist of the four apartment buildings and up to 36 of the single-family homes, as well as the construction of the neighborhood park.

Phase 2 would include building the trail system, the planned street connections, up to 34 new homes and completing the commercial building.

Phase 3 would include the remaining 33 units.

In reviewing the contract zone at the committee level, Kitchel said his biggest concern was the size of the proposal. But, he added, “this is a good example of how a contract zone can be used.”

“The (project) meets the Comprehensive Plan and the town’s growth goals,” he said. “I respect David Chase. He wants to serve the community and it’s good to have a cooperative developer.”

Another key for Kitchel is that the development will be completed over several years.

In finding the project meets the requirements of the Comprehensive Plan, the CDC relied on the sections of the plan that identify West Falmouth as a growth area specifically for mixed use development.

In addition, the developers told the CDC that the compact development would also make the cost of providing access to public utilities, particularly sewer, affordable.

The developers also said they will petition Summit Natural Gas of Maine to extend natural gas down Route 100 to the project.

Members of the CDC were also pleased because the project promotes connectivity for all modes of transport from vehicular to pedestrian.

When it comes to the approval process, Stearns said the Planning Board would be responsible for “reviewing all the technical details and would comment on any additional (development) restrictions.”

She added it would likely be “several months before the package gets to the Town Council for action.”

This story has been changed to correctly attribute a quotation.

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

A contract zone being proposed for West Falmouth includes 151 new housing units, a neighborhood park, a trail system and a new commercial building.

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