Falmouth councilors urged to sell Foreside property

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FALMOUTH —  The only speakers at a Town Council public hearing on future uses of a town-owned lot at 260 Foreside Road were a married couple who urged councilors to sell the property.

Rowan Morse, a local Realtor, and her husband, Jeff, both said Jan. 9 that since the town has not been able to propose a suitable and publicly accepted use for the land, which it purchased in 2007, it would be better to put the property back on the tax rolls.

The Morses live across the street from the 3.3-acre property, which abuts Underwood Park. In her comments, Rowan Morse called the original purchase “a reckless move.”

“Ten years is long enough to show this is not something we need or fabricate uses for,” she said. “We don’t need a new park. We don’t need more parking. Ten years later after numerous surveys and public input we are still discussing (this).”

Morse encouraged the council to sell a back acre to Holy Martyrs Church, which might want the land to expand the church’s parking lot, and then put the front 2 acres back on the market.

Morse was also the only member of the public to appear at the first of two sessions held Monday by a subcommittee of councilors that was tasked in May with setting up a public input process to get recommended uses for the parcel.

Even though no one else showed up for either public hearing, councilors Caleb Hemphill, Ned Kitchel and Charlie McBrady, who make up the subcommittee, said they’ve all received emails and phone calls from residents who have suggestions or hopes for the undeveloped lot.

In addition, Town Manager Nathan Poore said he hopes to get more public input when the town releases an online survey later this month. The survey will also be sent to those who own boat moorings in the harbor, but may not be Falmouth residents.

“We want to cast a wide net for people to respond to the survey,” Poore said. There will also be another chance for the public to speak in person at the council’s first meeting in February.

The members of the council subcommittee did agree with the Morses that no one in the neighborhood wants to see an intense use for the land,

Brady said Monday it’s clear that no one wants to see “drastic change,” and “the less we do (there) the better.” However, he is also anxious to wait and see what residents have to say in the survey, “then we can get to work.”

Kitchel agreed, saying what he’s heard so far from residents is “less is best,” and, at the most, what’s done should simply be an extension of Underwood Park.

In response to the Morses’ suggestion to sell the lot, Hemphill said what he’s heard from residents is that they “are interested in maintaining open space in that densely populated area of town.”

Suggestions that he’s heard include extending the sidewalk farther down Route 88 toward Depot Road and putting up dog waste bag dispensers, along with providing some extra seating near the playground at Underwood Park.

Right now the council subcommittee is only looking at recommending some additional landscaping, removing invasive plant species, and a “modest enhancement of the existing play equipment.”

But that could change based on the outcome of the online survey.

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