Falmouth council taking 'clean slate' approach to Foreside Road property

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FALMOUTH — Public input will be key as the Town Council weighs the best use of a town-owned lot at 260 Foreside Road.

The town bought the 3.3-acre property, which abuts Underwood Park, in 2007, with the intent of expanding parking options for nearby Town Landing.

However, subsequent studies and community response have shown there is not much need or interest in more parking. Instead, a council subcommittee has suggested only “minimal improvements” be made.

Those would include additional landscaping, removing invasive plants and possibly creating a limited-size, seasonal-only grassed parking area. In addition, the subcommittee also suggested that the town consider a “modest enhancement of the existing play equipment at Underwood Park.”

Other work at the park could also include re-installing a gate to the play area and a slight reconfiguration of the parking area to ease traffic circulation, according to a memo the subcommittee provided to the full council at the Dec. 12 meeting.

The subcommittee, which includes Councilors Caleb Hemphill, Ned Kitchel and Charlie McBrady, was appointed in May and has since met four times. Its work has included reviewing a public input report from 2009, a new parking study and an online survey of boat owners and nearby homeowners.

Now the council wants to hear from the wider community.

Residents will have an opportunity to talk about potential uses for the property through both an online survey and several public sessions, all scheduled for January.

“The 260 Foreside Road property forms a good open space addition to the abutting Underwood Park,” the subcommittee said in its memo to the council. “(And), the committee suggests that any improvements or changes to the property be minimal.”

Lucky D’Ascanio, programs director for Falmouth Parks & Community, indicated in his own memo to the council that his office already has plans in the works to make a few improvements at Underwood Park in the next few years, including installation of a new granite sign to match other park signs in town.

This work is slated for 2019, D’Ascanio said, and $26,000 has been set aside to pay for it. He said there are no funds allocated for improving the playground area or the addition of new play areas, “but this is certainly something that we can fund and construct in the future.”

Concerning any decisions the council may make about how to use the site, McBrady said at Monday’s council meeting that the process will be “transparent and public.”

At this point, he said, “the committee is open to anything. We are wide open to people’s comments and suggestions. This is a clean slate and we’ll listen to anybody’s ideas.”

Hemphill agreed, and said the online survey and the public input sessions planned for next month are “an opportunity to get a significant contribution” from the public in terms of what residents would like to see done with the property.

Town Manager Nathan Poore said his goal is for the council to come up with “a short list of proposals” for the site that would “be tested” through the online survey.

However, councilors also wanted to give the public “every opportunity to show up and speak,” Councilor Claudia King said, explaining why there will be two public meetings on Jan. 9.

The first will be held by the subcommittee, likely at 3 p.m. at Town Hall. The other would be held at 7 p.m. during the regular council meeting.

And, while Kitchel agreed with holding two sessions next month, he also said, “A lot of information has been gathered and there’s been lots of input to date. At some point we need to put things to paper and make some progress.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The Falmouth Town Council will take public comment next month on how to best use this publicly-owned, 3-acre site at 260 Foreside Road.