Developer back with new West Falmouth project

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FALMOUTH — Developer David Chase wants to build up to 78 single-family condominiums on the same West Falmouth site where his previous contract zone proposal drew so much opposition that Chase eventually withdrew the request.

Under the contract zone, Chase initially wanted to build more than 150 new homes, along with some commercial space, on a 52-acre parcel bound by Route 100, Mountain Road and the Maine Turnpike.

Chase pulled the plug on the proposal in late May after more than a year of discussion.

The project was so unpopular it led to an attempt to overturn the creation of new growth districts in town and a pledge by the Town Council to review the growth area designations and hold a public forum on the issue sometime this fall.

In opposing the contract zone, residents argued that it was too big and would have an adverse impact on municipal services, leading to school overcrowding and increased traffic in an already high-traffic area.

Those arguments were made again at Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, where Chase’s new proposal received initial sketch plan review.

Steve Dyer, an opponent of the contract zone, said this week that Chase’s down-sized project is still too dense and still doesn’t fit with the rural character of West Falmouth.

“This is a very dense development that doesn’t belong in this area,” Dyer said. “This is a rural district and should remain protected.”

He also accused Chase of using “trickery” to avoid some of the setback requirements in the Village Mixed Use zone, some of which are what led Chase to seek a contract zone in the first place.

Dyer also warned the Planning Board that he and others would likely be able to get another 900 signatures to oppose this project if it continued to move toward approval.

Keith Noyes, another West Falmouth resident, agreed with Dyer that “it just doesn’t fit” in with the character of that end of town.

“You’re taking the heart out of West Falmouth. To do this would be a shame. This is all wrong,” Noyes said.

Todd Kelly asked the Planning Board to require a cost-benefit analysis and said, “this needs to be good for the town, not just Mr. Chase. To me this is just a shame. It’s just ridiculous.”

Board Chairman Thomas McKeon told Chase he wanted to see a lot more detail, while acknowledging that Tuesday’s meeting only included an overview and not a complete application.

McKeon and others on the board called for a traffic study, and he also said he wants more information on how the open space and passive recreation areas within the project would be owned and managed.

He also told Chase the project could not be viewed in isolation, particularly with a proposal by Town Councilor Andrea Ferrante and her husband Matthew to build a 26-unit duplex project on an abutting piece of property.

After proposing a similar project in 2014, the Ferrantes incorporated their nearly 8-acre parcel into Chase’s contract zone proposal. But when that fell apart they went back to the drawing board. The Ferrantes’ new project was also up Tuesday for pre-application sketch plan review.

McKeon also agreed with the residents who spoke out Tuesday and said Chase’s new development proposal would be a “drastic change” for West Falmouth. He then encouraged Chase and his team to do the best they could to “ameliorate the impacts.”

“The smaller the project, the better,” McKeon said. “I want this to have as little impact as it can.”

Board member David Sinnett went even further and said he wanted Chase to conduct “a financial assessment on the impact to the town” of his project.

McKeon questioned whether that was something the board could require of a developer, but Sinnett stood firm and said such impacts must be considered under the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

It’s unclear when Chase’s new project will be back before the Planning Board, but when it is, McKeon predicted “there will be a lot of interest.” The next board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 4.

In outlining the condo project Tuesday, Matthew Ek of Sebago Technics told the board that Chase would not be seeking any waivers, variances or conditional approvals.

He said Chase is planning to build homes “of various sizes” on a common lot that would be owned and maintained by a condo association. He said the overall lot size is just over 44 acres, of which nearly 28 acres are developable.

Like the prior contract zone proposal, Chase is also considering constructing two commercial buildings that might also include residential units on the upper floors. Ek said Chase is still also proposing to include several walking trails on the property.

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

This sketch provides a rough layout of developer David Chase’s proposed new condo project in West Falmouth. It’s being proposed for the same site as a contract zone that Chase withdrew in the spring.

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