FALMOUTH — The town and the Falmouth Lions Club are being forced to find new homes for a pair of public conveniences after unsuccessful negotiations with the owners of a Route 100 shopping plaza.
The town has been asked to move the Maine Turnpike Exit 53 park-and-ride lot from its location at West Falmouth Crossing, according to Town Manager Nathan Poore, and the Lions have been asked to remove a lucrative bottle shed.
The club receives thousands of dollars annually from donations to the bottle shed, which support scholarships and other charitable causes.
Since the bottle shed was placed on the property 17 years ago it’s brought in nearly $84,000, with the total for last year topping out at just over $3,000, said Anthony Hayes, a long-time member of the Lions Club who manages the shed.
“I hate to give up on it,” Hayes said. “The shed is about community, and supporting each other, and being a part of something bigger and just helping out. I just don’t see any real reason why we have to move.”
But Poore said the bottle shed is on private property and while “this is a tough one, we have to be compliant and respect (individual) property rights.”
Plaza property manager Dick Rogers this week said West Falmouth Crossing Owners Association documents do not allow any structure to be placed in common areas, and the bottle shed is on a commonly owned lot.
“It was put there with a handshake and a gentleman’s agreement many years ago,” Rogers said, but was never officially approved by the association.
“I suppose a private lot owner in the plaza could offer a spot for the shed,” he added.
Poore told the Town Council last week there’s no clear reason why the seven different owners of individual lots in the shopping plaza have requested the removal of the parking area and bottle shed, which are next to each other.
“They just don’t want either” activity to remain as they are now, he said. “I’ve tried to facilitate a solution, but got no support.”
Town councilors last week were not happy to learn that both the bottle shed and the park-and-ride would have to go, but Poore said, “we have no property rights (there), so we have no legal rights.”
While councilors had some concerns about the actions of the ownership association, they did agree to fund a feasibility study to look for alternate locations for the commuter parking, as well as exploring the possibility of new in-fill development at the plaza.
In a memo provided to the Town Council prior to the Aug. 27 meeting, Poore said the West Falmouth Crossing master plan is now 20 years old and in the past few years the town has met with the ownership group to explore the feasibility of updating it.
He said the goals of the new study are to find a new, permanent location for the park and ride, which would consist of approximately 24 spaces, find a new bus stop location and create a plan for interior lots that are now restricted from development.
“The study will include feedback from all stakeholders, (including) property owners, tenants, the (Maine Turnpike Authority, Greater Portland) METRO, the council, and the public and is intended to result in a feasibility report that will be submitted for review,” Poore said in the memo.
He told the council the study would cost $10,000, which would be fully reimbursed by the MTA, and said it would allow the town to “get some idea of what could be done and what scenarios are possible.”
Hayes said the Lions Club gets a significant amount of money from the bottle shed partly because it’s stationed next to the park and ride.
Having the shed in that location, he said, keeps it in the spotlight and reminds residents daily that the Lions Club puts the money it gets from returnables “to good use right here in Falmouth.”
The problem with having to relocate the bottle shed, Hayes said, is that it has to be visible and convenient for people to use.
“It’s disappointing for us, for sure,” he said. “It’s just a feel-good (program) all around and we’ve had great support (for it) over the years.”
Due to new ownership of the West Falmouth Crossing, the town and the Lions Club are being asked to move key public services.
The Lions Club operates a bottle shed at West Falmouth Crossing that brings in thousands of dollars a year, but the new ownership is now asking the club to remove the shed.