Falmouth eyes 'significant' change to land set-aside rules

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FALMOUTH — A proposal to amend the town’s resource conservation overlay district to require a 50 percent set-aside for certain rural developments was called a crucial change at Monday’s council meeting.

“This is a significant change for a significant area of town,” Councilor Karen Farber said, which is why she believes “we could use some more public comment all the way around.”

Only two people spoke at this week’s public hearing, and both opposed the change.

The proposal was originally recommended two years ago by the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee as a way to accomplish the Comprehensive Plan’s goal of preserving the town’s rural character.

Along with requiring a 50 percent set aside, the ordinance change would also expand the resource conservation overlay zone to all residential development, not just to single-family homes.

Councilor Ned Kitchel agreed with Farber that the consequences of the amendment would be significant, particularly for large property owners in the farm and forest zones.

That’s why both he and Farber wanted to hold another public hearing on the issue at the May 14 meeting, when the council is scheduled to hold a final vote on the ordinance change.

However, Councilor Claudia King said it would set a bad precedent to “double up on public hearings. At some point we do have to move forward.”

The committee “has been working on this for some time, so I’m loathe to allow multiple hearings.” And, she argued, the Comprehensive Plan has given “high priority to preserving valuable rural aspects” from development.

But Councilor Aaron Svedlow also said it would be better to “give people another chance to express concerns or provide input that we haven’t thought about.”

He would also like more background information on what’s behind the committee’s recommendation, as would Councilor Andrea Ferrante.

Swedlow also said there’s no particular hurry to adopt the ordinance amendments and he just wants the chance “to keep an open mind” on the issue.

As a compromise, the council agreed to allow comment on the land conservation requirement during the regular public forum at the beginning of its meeting in two weeks.

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