Falmouth council wants public input on OceanView expansion proposals

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council remained split last week on a planned expansion of the OceanView retirement community campus that could require the conveyance of town-owned open space.

OceanView proposed turning the former Plummer School on Lunt Road into senior housing. The organization originally proposed a 35-unit development, but the scope has changed over time.

Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long-range planning, told councilors at their Oct. 14 meeting that OceanView had two proposals.

The first is a 28-unit development that would only require OceanView to renovate the property on which the former school is located. The second option is a 34-unit development, which would require construction on land owned by the town, and therefore need some conveyance of just under a quarter of an acre of land between Plummer and Lunt schools. The piece of land is known as the Village Green.

Some portion of the housing would also be designated as affordable housing for senior citizens. At a council meeting in August, Holtwijk said OceanView’s plan was to keep a third of the units affordable for 30 years for residents earning no more than 120 percent of the area median income. According to Holtwijk, the 2015 income levels in Falmouth for two people at 120 percent AMI is just over $74,000.

Holtwijk said the town has the opportunity to apply for an affordable housing Tax Increment Financing District, and there would be flexibility as to how the TIF tax dollars could be used.

Council Vice Chairman Russell Anderson said because of the amount that could come back from the TIF, it “makes a whole lot of sense financially” to convey the land. He added that tax revenue could be put towards things like creating a senior center and hiring a senior services coordinator, both of which were proposed by the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee earlier in the meeting.

“It strikes me as a pretty good idea,” Anderson said.

Councilor Charlie McBrady agreed, saying it was an opportunity to fund something like a senior center by giving up land.

“It’s a win-win,” McBrady said.

Other councilors were less inclined to give or sell the land to OceanView. Councilor Ned Kitchel said the green space is “very important.”

“I haven’t determined in my mind I’m ready to give that space up,” Kitchel said.

Councilor Caleb Hemphill said he was all for affordable housing for seniors, and said OceanView had come up with excellent propositions.

“I just regret it is here, in this spot,” Hemphill said.

Councilors generally agreed public input should be heard before any decisions on land conveyance get made. Hemphill said there hadn’t been any opportunities for the public to weigh in. He said while he didn’t want to keep delaying the project – OceanView bought the property in 2013 – they were missing out on “that part of the public process.”

“There are a lot of voices out there I’d like to hear,” Councilor Claudia King said.

Chris Wasileski, project manager for OceanView, said the company is happy to entertain public comment on the project.

“We’re just trying to be a good partner,” he said.

The council agreed on two opportunities for public input.

The first will be in a forum at the Oct. 26 meeting. The second will come when the council schedules an order, or vote, which is tentatively set for Nov. 9.

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

The master plan for OceanView’s renovation of the Plummer-Motz property in Falmouth, where the retirement community plans to build at least 28 units of senior housing.

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.