Falmouth council OKs Tidewater extension, changes

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FALMOUTH — Not much was said during a 30-minute Town Council meeting Monday night, but future hearing dates on towing fees and the combined municipal and school budgets should create opportunities for more discussion.

Councilors unanimously agreed to 7 p.m. April 9 at Falmouth Elementary School for the budget hearing, and to hold a hearing on new towing fees at their regular meeting on April 13.

Amendments to the Tidewater Master Plan Development District and the Tidewater Village Design Guidelines, and a six-month extension of the district, were unanimously approved after both received public comment at prior meetings.

The budgets as proposed present a mixed bag for local taxpayers. On the municipal side, the $11.55 million operating budget presented by Town Manager Nathan Poore could reduce the current tax rate of $14.10 per $1,000 of assessed value by 4 cents.

The proposed $33.27 million school budget would add 68 cents to the tax rate. Of the $14.10 tax rate, $10.50 goes to fund local schools, and the budget draft for fiscal year 2016 boosts the rate to $11.18. The school budget is still under deliberation.

Councilor Russ Anderson, the Finance Committee chairman, praised the developing municipal budget and work by Poore.

“(We) provide a strong set of services and have a minimal effect on the mil rate,” he said.

Chairwoman Karen Farber said the revision of towing fees private companies can assess when called by police to accidents or other emergency scenes is needed to attract companies to do the work. She said town staff recommends the fees should not be listed in the ordinance, but placed in a separate fee schedule that can be more easily amended.

“The fees were reviewed and we found them to be inadequate,” Police Chief Edward Toland said in a March 5 memo to Poore. “Additionally, we have experienced a great deal of resistance by the tow companies to respond to our calls.”

The proposed new towing fees would increase fees for day calls from $85 to $100; calls from 10 p.m.-7 a.m. would increase to $150 from $95. Storage fees for more than 24 hours would be doubled to $50 per day, as would fees for night, Sunday or holiday release of towed vehicles.

The Tidewater Master Plan Development District was approved 10 years ago next month, with a provision it would expire if portions of the district are “not substantially completed” within 10 years.

Tidewater developer Nathan Bateman wants the extension because four plots in the acreage between Interstate 295, Clearwater Drive and Lunt Road have not been developed “due to market conditions,” according to a letter from Michael E. Tadema-Wielandt, an engineer with South Portland-based Fay, Spofford and Thorndike.

The six month extension will allow more study of how to develop the land, but Bateman hopes for a larger extension of as much as 20 years, Tadema-Wielandt said.

Zoning changes for the Tidewater TV-3 mixed-use zone at Farm Gate Road and Clearwater Drive were also granted by the council, allowing possible construction of a two-story medical office building with a footprint of 11,000 square feet.

The maximum number of housing units in two adjacent TV-3 buildings was also increased to 10.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.