Falmouth council approves zoning change sought for sports bar

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved zoning and site plan review amendments that would allow construction of a proposed restaurant and sports pub next to Tidewater Village.

The proposal will now return to the Planning Board for site plan approval.

The council also unanimously backed using $300,000 in undesignated funds for architectural services for Falmouth Memorial Library’s expansion and renovation.

The changes to the zoning ordinance initially included three things requested by developers of the Rivalries sports pub: changing the use from commercial to restaurant and outdoor dining, excluding the basement from consideration in the building’s footprint, and reorienting the front of the business from Clearwater Drive to Hat Trick Drive.

Council Chairwoman Karen Farber tried to introduce three more changes to the existing proposal at Monday night’s meeting. She asked that the outdoor dining portion of the restaurant be held off for now, that public access be prohibited in the basement, and leaving options to orient the business along Farm Gate Road or Clearwater Drive.

“The developer and applicant could seek (outdoor dining) at a later date,” Farber said. “There have been enough concerns raised by neighbors, I think it’s not a necessity.”

However, the rest of the council was not inclined to strike outdoor dining from the proposal.

“The last thing I want is something to jeopardize the success of the building and make it worse off,” Councilor Russell Anderson said.

Anderson said the concerns he has heard about the outdoor dining aspect would have been noise for the adjacent neighborhood, and he suggested using the building itself as a buffer by building the outdoor portion away from the neighborhood.

“This is not a concert venue, just people eating sandwiches in the summer,” Anderson said.

Farber ultimately was convinced by the rest of the councilors and did not include prohibiting outdoor dining in her proposed changes. The prohibition on public access to the basement, and allowing the entrance to face any of the three streets, were accepted by the council.

While public comment was not allowed, councilors acknowledged the proposal has been intensely debated, specifically by residents of Tidewater Village. They have opposed the plan on grounds the lot is not zoned for a restaurant. They also have argued the proposal is inconsistent with the master plan that created their mixed-use community.

But councilors said the master plan leaves open the possibility of change.

“The argument that you can’t change things ever doesn’t resonate with me,” Anderson said.

Councilor Claudia King said the plan needed to be changeable because markets change.

“This is an opportunity,” King said, adding she could envision more people walking in and enjoying the entire community, with the caveat it’s “developed carefully and with input” from neighbors.

“This sets a good model for how to try to work with the community, even when it’s clear they are at odds,” Councilor Sean Mahoney said.

Farber noted there is “a lot of process still to go” and there is always “the potential for change.”

On Tuesday, Clifford Gilpin, president of the Tidewater Farm Homeowner’s Association, said he was not surprised by the council’s decision, because councilors indicated “all along” they wanted to show support for businesses in Falmouth. He also said there may be chances to scale back the proposal when it goes before the Planning Board again.

Gilpin said he expected the association directors to meet on Wednesday to discuss what their next step might be, but admitted going to court would be “a challenging thing to do,” and having the decision overturned would be difficult.

Library financing

Farber said the $300,000 being moved from Unassigned Fund Balance is part of the town’s commitment to financing up to 50 percent of the library project, not an addition to it.

Library trustees unanimously selected Portland based Scott Simons Architects, who drafted the preliminary designs, as the architect for the project.

Board member Marsha Clark said Simons was chosen after discussions and interviews with the candidates, who included Beacon Architectural Associates of Boston and Jonhson Roberts Associates of Somerville, Massachusetts.

Clark said the cost for Simons’ work will be just under $500,000 from start to finish, and the fee for pre-construction is just over $300,000. Anything over $300,000 will be assumed by the library, Clark said.

Clark said there will be natural break points in the architect’s plans “so plans gon’t get ahead of fundraising.” The next step will be to issue an RFP for a construction manager.

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

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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.