Falmouth developer removes apartments from proposed contract zone

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FALMOUTH — Following pushback from both the Town Council and the public, developer David Chase has changed his West Falmouth contract zone proposal.

Chase’s consultant on the project, Matthew Ek of Sebago Technics, on Monday said the new plan removes 48 apartment units and reduces the size of the project to about 119 units.

The plan also now calls for three separate commercial buildings, instead of one 6,000-square-foot structure, and will likely include some type of retail on the first floor and some residential units on the second floor.

The changes also mean Chase would no longer be seeking an exemption from the town’s growth cap, except for the entry-level affordable housing and the units being set aside for residents 55 and older.

The new plan also calls for fewer exemptions to the town’s zoning rules, which Chase also hopes will make the development more palatable for councilors and the public.

At the request of town staff, Ek created a concept design of what the development might look like without the contract zoning, but said both aesthetically and from the point of view of the Comprehensive Plan, it simply wasn’t as good a project.

He also noted that without the contract zone, there would be no requirement for Chase to provide open space, create walking trails or build several new neighborhood parks. Ek also said the overall streetscape under current zoning would not create the community feel the council is looking for.

In a memo provided to the Council, Ek noted that “the current minimum lot width requirement is the largest impediment in the development of a well‐designed subdivision.”

He also said current zoning rules would more than double the amount of impervious area in the development and would triple the number of stream crossings, as well as lead to “substantially more wetland” being filled.

Ek said under the new development plan for the contract zone, Chase is hoping “to establish zoning criteria that will assist in the stated goals for residential growth within the Route 100/26 growth area and that will be in harmony with the VMU Zoning District and the Route 100 Overlay District.”

And, Ek said, “The buildable areas of the site will be utilized to create a more traditional tight-knit neighborhood that will feature open space (and) natural and pedestrian friendly rights‐of‐way.”

Originally, Chase and his development partners, Town Councilor Andrea Ferrante and her husband, Matthew, were planning to build 151 units on a 52-acre parcel bordered by the Maine Turnpike, Route 100 and Mountain Road.

Under the new plan Chase is proposing to build a few more single-family homes and seven duplexes, which he said seem to be more in line with the type of development residents of Falmouth favor.

However, in his memo to the Council, Ek said, “The final number of units will depend on the final configuration of the properties, unit type mix and final contract zone approval.”

As he’s argued from the beginning, Chase said the contract zone complies with the Comprehensive Plan, which calls for “well‐planned residential development … to be integrated (with) commercial areas.”

Another favorable aspect of the contract zone, Ek said, is that public sewer will be extended to this end of town.

To be eligible for a contract zone, a developer must show the project complies with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and current zoning, and there is a public benefit that would otherwise not be available.

Overall, Councilors seemed to like the changes Chase is proposing, particularly because he will no longer be seeking an exemption from the growth cap. Although Ek also said that means the project could have a longer build out than he initially thought.

“We’re trying to reduce the number of exceptions we’re asking for and reduce the total size of the project and address the issues the Council and public had the most (problem) with,” Ek said.

Councilor Aaron Svedlow said he appreciates the changes Chase has made and said the process, so far, has served to “highlight the importance of public/private conversations (on development.)”

“(This) is more aesthetically pleasing and meets our housing needs,” he added. “Personally this checks a lot of boxes (for development), especially in that area. This type of development fosters a sense of community and I’m totally in support.”

Other Councilors were not so ready to wholeheartedly endorse the changes to the contract zone.

However, Councilor Claudia King said “We appreciate you listening to the Council and the public on this. I really want there to be a community feel and you’ve done a lot of things to promote that.”

In the end the council agreed to have town staff move forward on preparing a draft contract zone and also discussed the possibility of holding a joint public hearing with the Planning Board.

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

The conceptual layout for a West Falmouth contract zone project without the proposed 48 apartment units.

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