FALMOUTH — Despite attempts by one town councilor to allow public scrutiny, a developer’s plans for the Plummer-Motz and Lunt school properties will remain secret until a formal proposal process begins.
The Town Council voted 5-2 Monday to keep secret all discussions with private parties about proposed development of the school property and buildings before a request for proposals is issued. Councilors Bonny Rodden and Chris Orestis cast the dissenting votes.
Although the developer later expressed willingness to share the plans with the public, the decision keeps sealed a presentation made to the council two weeks ago in executive session.
“Since then, no other parties have come forward wanting to meet with the council in executive session,” said Rodden, who introduced the order to release information from the closed-door discussion and any future discussions with potential developers.
Rodden was on vacation during the meeting on July 11 when the council met privately to hear the presentation by the developer of the OceanView community.
She argued that keeping that information from the public gives the impression OceanView has an inside track, and makes the council look as if it is hiding something.
“I think that gives the impression you’re designing the RFP for that one developer that has come and met with you in secret,” she said.
The deadline for other potential developers to schedule closed-door meetings with the council expired July 25.
However, other councilors were concerned that unsealing the information OceanView revealed in secret would give the impression that any information revealed in an executive session could later be made public.
“What happens in executive session stays in executive session,” Councilor Faith Varney said.
However, after the meeting, Sea Coast Management Co. Project Manager Chris Wasileski, whose company manages and develops the OceanView property, said they would be happy to show the public the same plans they showed the council two weeks ago if the council asked them to do that.
“We’re open to making the exact same proposal we made in private (to the council) in public,” Wasileski said.
The council also discussed a draft RFP for redevelopment of the approximately 20-acre school complex.
The draft includes details about the failed June referendum, which would have turned the schools into a town library and community center, and states that the town will consider Tax Increment Financing as an option.
Some councilors took issue with including the referendum information and a request that some of the property remain in civic use in the RFP.
A great deal of discussion centered around whether the RFP should include a clear desire for a community center on the property. Some councilors were in favor of including that, others favored a more general RFP.
“This sets the track to the conclusion that this will have public use,” said Councilor Tony Payne, who opposed including specific requests for a community center. “What I’m looking for is the highest and best use for the property.”
Orestis said he thought it was clear during the referendum that both sides supported having a community center at the site.
“I think our town spoke and that community use is important in this,” he said. “I think it needs to be in here.”
The council will review a second draft of the RFP at its next meeting, and will hold a public comment period on the RFP at its Aug. 22 meeting.