Falmouth finalizes funding plan for Route 1 makeover

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council finalized several referendum questions Monday night and heard public comment on the zoning portion of the Route 1 improvement plan.

Because the town received final approval on a tax increment financing extension for the Route 1 infrastructure improvement project, Town Manager Nathan Poore asked councilors to approve an amendment to a June 11 referendum question they had previously approved.

Before the amendment, the Route 1 referendum question included a stipulation that if the town did not receive the TIF extension, the $11.7 million project would be put on hold until the funding became available. The amendment clarifies that the town did receive the TIF funding and no burden will be placed on taxpayers for the Route 1 makeover.

Councilors also approved sending two middle-school infrastructure improvement questions to voters.

The two projects will include improvements to several classrooms and an upgrade to the heating system, and will bring the building up to code. Total cost for the projects is estimated at $5 million.

Councilors also unanimously approved sending the school budget to voters. The School Department has proposed a $30.2 million budget. The municipal budget for fiscal 2014 is just over $11 million.

The combined budgets, and the town’s share of Cumberland County spending, would result in a tax increase of about 5 percent, to $14.13 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Before approving the referendum questions, councilors heard from the public on the zoning portion of the Route 1 improvement project.

The zoning amendments create three village districts: Village Center 1 from Bucknam Road to Fundy Road, Village Center 2 from Fundy Road to Route 88, and a third district for properties near Falmouth Memorial Library and Legion Field.

According to Councilor Bonny Rodden, chairwoman of the Community Development Committee, Village Center 1 will be the more densely populated, pedestrian-friendly area, with buildings flush to the streets and parking behind the structures, while Village Center 2 will allow for one row of parking in front of buildings.

“The point is to make the area more village-like,” Rodden said. “We have a limited amount of space in Falmouth for commercial development, and along Route 1 there isn’t a lot. The point of this project is to make it denser, so we will have more commercial property, which will create more property taxes.”

The two residents who spoke during public comment both took issue with the creation of a village feel and using up existing limited space.

Michael Doyle said that taking buildable lots away is a mistake, because it will make the land so expensive that buyers will be priced out.

Adrian Fox, who moved to Falmouth from England 12 years ago, said a town center and a village are two different things.

“Village suggests a number of very nice, quaint shops and tea rooms and that is great … (but) you can’t create a village. You can create a town and a town center, but you can’t create a village, because one is a way of thought and another is a way of commerce,” he said.

Fox also took issue with narrowing of the roads, saying it shouldn’t be described as traffic-calming because “all it does is make everyone annoyed.” He said it will lead to people making “rat runs” through parking lots and the interconnections planned for the area.

Councilors will vote on the zoning changes at their May 13 meeting.

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.