Falmouth Council approves Avesta proposal, pedestrian plan

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FALMOUTH — In their final meeting before the June 14 elections, Town Councilors Monday night unanimously approved amending the code of ordinances to support Avesta Housing’s expansion on Squidere Lane.

The council also unanimously gave initial support through a resolution to the 2016 bicycle and pedestrian plan.

Avesta has come before the council multiple times over the past several months about renovations and an expansion project proposed at 21 Squidere Lane, which is off Depot Road. The amendment will create an overlay district to facilitate the project, which calls for significant renovations to 20 apartments at the development and creating 19 more. The units are aimed at low-income elderly residents whose income is below 60 percent of the area median income.

The new building will be two stories tall, with 17 one-bedroom units and two,  two-bedroom units. Avesta is proposing 39 total parking spaces.

By accepting the amendment, councilors also accepted a conceptual master plan for the development. Amanda Stearns, the town’s community development director, said by applying for the overlay district, the applicants had to submit a conceptual master plan to the council.

“It’s to give you a sense of what the project might look like in general terms,” Stearns said. She added that details would be worked out by the Planning Board when Avesta goes before planners.

Council Vice Chairman Russell Anderson felt the project would be good for Falmouth, and said there will be ample time at the Planning Board level for the Avesta residents to discuss their concerns – namely parking – that were raised at the May 10 council meeting.

“The biggest benefit to the residents is that this project includes renovations to the existing units,” Anderson said, adding the renovations were “sorely needed” in everyone’s point of view.

Bicycle and pedestrian plan

Town staff has been working on a bicycle and pedestrian master plan as a way to update and consolidate older versions.

Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long range planning and economic development, said the theme of the plan is to create more inter-connectivity among the town’s walking and biking trails, and the intent is to guide Falmouth forward over the next 20 years. The plan will help the town prepare for annual capital improvement projects and review future improvement requests.

The plan has 47 different possible action items, broken down into three categories of short term, which would be completed in one to five years; mid term, which would take six to 10 years; and long term, which would take 11 to 20 years.

Holtwijk said locations where connections can be improved include: Route 1 and Route 100 commercial areas and surrounding neighborhoods; the school campus; connection to downtown Portland; neighborhood pedestrian loops; rural bicycle loops and others.

The town held a stakeholders’ meeting along with two public forums, and had an online survey available in order to gather public input on the plan. The plan also included some general recommendations, such as making Americans with Disabilities Act improvements to the town’s sidewalk systems. Additionally, Holtwijk said town officials are recommending that an informal stakeholder group be formed to meet a few times a year and review progress, provide feedback and assistance.

Only one person spoke during public comment. Andy Jones, chairman of the Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee, spoke of the benefits of bicycling and walking, how they use less energy, are healthier options, and get people out and more involved.

“I’m excited about this plan,” Jones said.

Councilors were also receptive to the plan and the advisory group. Their vote to support the resolution did not constitute a commitment of money or endorsing all 47 action items, but that they support the vision of the plan. Going forward, town staff will develop a two-year bicycle-pedestrian work plan, Holtwijk said.

In other business, the council approved victualer licenses for a number of businesses, including one for the Falmouth Premium Cinema, which is operated by Flagship Cinemas and has taken over the vacant Regal Cinema building on 206 U.S. Route 1. According to documents filed with the town, the targeted opening date is June 20.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Falmouth Town Hall

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.