Falmouth highway project requires nearly 100 right-of-way acquisitions

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FALMOUTH — More than 90 property owners along Route 100 will be asked to give up land to accommodate the planned roadway reconstruction project.

Some of the property will be taken only temporarily while the project is in progress, but other land owners will have to permanently relinquish a portion of their property.

In most cases, the right-of-way acquisitions will “involve very little land and (have) minimal impact,” according to a memo prepared for the Town Council at its Aug. 14 meeting.

The Maine Department of Transportation will take responsibility for right-of-way acquisitions, which includes approximately 63 properties, according to the memo.

The town will be responsible for any rights-of-way on Leighton, Mountain, and Falmouth roads, which includes about 31 properties, the memo said.

Under the $10.5 million project, a little more than 1 mile of Route 100, also known as Gray Road, would see significant improvements, including the addition of sidewalks, new drainage and street lighting.

In June of 2016, residents approved borrowing for the Route 100 project during a referendum. The state will pick up $4 million of the project cost, while the town will pay for the rest.

Also included in the project are upgrades to the intersections of Route 100 and Leighton Road and Route 100 and Mountain and Falmouth roads. Those improvements include dedicated turning lanes and new bicycle lanes.

In addition, while Route 100 is under reconstruction public sewer access will be added.

In the memo regarding the right-of-way takings process, town staff said all affected property owners would be compensated.

The state offers a minimum of $250 for an easement and $500 for a full property taking, the memo said, and Falmouth would offer the same to streamline the process.

“The unusual aspect of this project is coordinating efforts (between the state and the town), so all property owners go through a similar process, hear the same story and are entitled to the same compensation depending on the extent of property impact,” the memo added.

Because there are so many properties involved in the Route 100 reconstruction project, it now likely won’t go out to bid until the summer of 2018, the council was told earlier this month.

That will ensure that all property owners have the time and ability to appeal the right-of-way taking process, if they wish, the memo said.

According to the schedule, property appraisals would begin sometime in September and run through the first of the year. Then appraisal reviews would be held in late winter with eminent domain property transfers beginning in mid-March.

At the Aug. 14 meeting, councilors gave an initial OK to the right-of-way process as laid out in the memo, but also charged town staff with making sure that property owners are fully informed, particularly of their individual rights.

In a letter sent out by the town on Aug. 22, property owners in West Falmouth were informed that the right-of-way acquisition phase for the Route 100 project would “soon start.”

That notification also indicated that “separate letters of intent (will be sent) to all affected property owners, outlining the need to acquire property interests, describing the process … (and the) rights of property owners.”

In an interview Monday, Theo Holtwijk, the town’s economic and long-range planning director, said so many properties are being impacted by the Route 100 reconstruction because of the narrowness of the roadway and the topography.

He also said the project could not go out to bid until the right-of-way process is complete, which means ground may not be broken until late summer or early fall 2018, pushing completion project back to 2020.

In terms of the right-of-way of way process, Holtwijk said, “We plan to be very clear and explain what it all entails.”

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

About 1 mile of Route 100 in Falmouth is slated for reconstruction starting next year. The project will run from the Portland town line to the intersection of Route 100 and Mountain and Falmouth roads.

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