Falmouth Center developer seeks zone change for entire project

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FALMOUTH — Developer Jonathan Cohen was expected back before the Town Council this week with a request to rezone the entire property proposed for Falmouth Center.

This past summer councilors told Cohen they wanted more of a master plan concept for the project that would include a sports complex, hotel, residences, retail shops, offices, restaurants and a village green at the Falmouth Shopping Center on Route 1.

Cohen and business partner Joseph Solely purchased the shopping center last spring for $21 million and plan to create more than 400,000 square feet of new development on 40 acres near the intersection of Bucknam Road and Route 1, including the 11-acre Maine Turnpike spur intersection, which is owned by the state.

However, the closest residential abutters have opposed to the project, which they feel would alter the character of their neighborhood. The proposal has also received opposition from other residents who are worried about potential negative impacts to the environment and an increase in traffic.

Initially, Cohen sought approval of a zone change only for the sports complex, which would include outdoor and indoor fields and an administrative building. The fields would accommodate Seacoast United, which is the only tenant announced to date.

Over the course of several meetings in July, though, councilors refused the initial zone change and also said multiple impact studies would be needed before they could move forward on the project. The studies included light, noise, traffic and the ecology.

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, after The Forecaster’s print deadline, the council scheduled a workshop to see results of some of the studies and updates on the progress of others, and to review Cohen’s request for a zone change for the whole site.

“I’m hoping we can move forward,” Cohen said in an interview prior to this week’s meeting. “We’ve provided the studies that were requested. We’ll see what the council has to say. Hopefully, we can work together.”

Council Chairman Caleb Hemphill, also reached prior to Wednesday’s discussion, said it would be up to the council as a whole to decide whether Cohen has provided enough information to move forward.

“I think what we told him is that we need a clear plan and this is his direct response,” Hemphill said. “Any next steps would have to be decided Wednesday.”

The council is involved in the early stages of the development project because of the zone change request, which can only be approved by a majority of councilors. If the zone change is eventually approved, the project would also require site plan approval from the Planning Board.

In his initial presentation to the council on the Falmouth Center project, Cohen said full build-out would be done in phases and it would likely take several years. However, he has also called Seacoast United an anchor tenant that is needed in order for the full project to move forward at all.

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

If the Town Council agrees, developer Jonathan Cohen hopes to redevelop the Falmouth Shopping Center and add another 400,000 square feet of new development. A zoning change is required for the project to move forward.