Coordinated neighborhood planning proposed for West Falmouth

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FALMOUTH — Hoping to take advantage of planned improvements to Route 100 in West Falmouth, developer David Chase has approached the town with a proposal for a mixed-use project on 40 acres off Mountain Road.

It would require either a zoning amendment or contract zone , according to Theo Holtwijk, Falmouth’s director of long-range planning, which is why he’s recommending the town study the possibility of creating a new Village Mixed Use District.

That district could apply not only to Chase’s property, but to a total of 80 acres bound by Mountain Road, Route 100, Marston Street and the Maine Turnpike, Holtwijk said Jan. 9. The goal would be to have the rezoning process completed by May, in time for the summer construction season.

In addition, Holtwijk said his office is also working with the town’s consultant, the Stantec engineering and project design firm, on the Route 100 project to create what he’s calling a West Falmouth Neighborhood Sketch Plan.

The idea is to “explore possibilities for coordinated, phased development of, and best design practices for” the 80 acres the town is considering rezoning, Holtwijk said in a letter to property owners and abutters that was sent out in late fall.

“The sketch plan will incorporate best practices in planning and design, such as pedestrian and bicycle-friendly streetscapes, a variety of housing types, a network of open spaces, pocket parks and trails, street/parcel inter-connectivity, coordinated access to Route 100 and a mix of commercial uses,” the letter said. “The design (process) would also take advantage of the impending improvements to Route 100 to enhance the commercial success of (that) corridor.”

The goal, Holtwijk said this week, is to ultimately get input from not only local stakeholders and town officials, but also the general public, which would include several public meetings being planned for later this month and into February.

“There are larger community issues at stake that need to be explored” before the town gives the OK to Chase to develop his land, he said.

“We are interested in seeing what we can do in terms of a planned neighborhood,” Holtwijk added. “There’s a lot of opportunity here. The fact is, this kind of (possibility) doesn’t happen all that often and the beauty is, there’s not that many areas of Falmouth that could benefit” from this type of planning process.

Reached on Tuesday, Chase said while he’s anxious to start developing his property, “there’s a rezoning process that’s required, and I don’t want to get out in front of that. I’m willing to let the process move forward” at its own pace.

Nathan Poore, the town manager, said in working with Chase it occurred to town staff that “abutting property owners may also have development interests, (so) we are offering a process for the neighborhood to work together to see if there are opportunities to develop in a way that benefits the vision for the (whole) area.”

“It’s about seeing an opportunity to add value to land use development by meeting the town’s vision (for West Falmouth),” Poore said. “It may not work out, but it’s an attempt to see if there are opportunities. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

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

The town of Falmouth is considering a zone change and a planned neighborhood design process for about 80 acres off Route 100 in West Falmouth.