Falmouth library move likely after renovation is axed

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FALMOUTH — In addition to unanimously passing a resolution to sell the Pleasant Hill Fire Station, the Town Council on Monday came to some consensus around two options for the library and community center, and discussed a possible lease of the Lunt or Plummer school buildings to a quasi-state agency.

The sale of the Pleasant Hill Fire Station at 44 Allen Ave. Ext., which was closed almost a year ago, was part of the initial Community Facilities Planning Committee recommendation earlier this spring.

Town Manager Nathan Poore said the town met with several real estate brokers and settled on CBRE The Boulos Co., which will charge a 5 percent commission. The 2,250-square-foot building and half-acre property will be listed for $190,000.

School buildings

After a lengthy presentation by the Falmouth Memorial Library board of trustees, two architects and Associated Design Partners President Jim Thibodeau, the council determined that two of the four options presented were worthy of further review.

“Our goal is to find a solution that does not increase Falmouth taxpayers’ burden,” library Vice President Julie Rabinowitz said.

The council eliminated the option of the library expanding at its current location, in part because of a projected cost of $3.2 to $3.6 million, which included the purchase and demolition of a neighboring home that would be turned into a parking lot.

“We thought it was not in the best interest to spend a half million dollars to tear down someone’s family home and put up a parking lot,” Rabinowitz said. “We don’t want to engage in the taking of property when there are other viable options.”

Moving the library to Plummer was also eliminated, because the building would require expensive renovations.

The first option the council liked would move the library to Lunt, which was the original recommendation of the Community Facilities Planning Committee. The option would also make the Motz wing available for community programs and lease Plummer to the Maine Department of Education-supervised Child Development Services, which provides early intervention and education services to children before they are old enough for school.

In mid-November, the CDS expressed interest in a five- or 10-year lease of Lunt for office, therapy and classroom space. Poore indicated that the agency toured both Plummer and Lunt and had also expressed interested in Plummer if Lunt isn’t available.

“I would recommend at this stage, have staff flush out in greater detail, the library going to Lunt, Community Programs going to Motz, and CDS going to Plummer,” Councilor Will Armitage said. “I think the numbers are here.”

Thibodeau’s cost estimates ranged from $3 million to $3.3 million to turn the Lunt School into a library.

The second option – to build a new library building between the current Lunt and Plummer schools – was estimated at $4.3 million to $4.8 million. This option could be offset by the sale of the Lunt School building to a private company for development or lease, something Councilor Fred Chase suggested the town staff also investigate.

All of the options presented would create the 20,000-square-foot library that consultant Nolan Lushington recommended in a presentation earlier this fall.

Councilor Cathy Breen said she did not want to see the town lose the green space between the school buildings, something she believes is valuable for farmers’ markets and outdoor concerts.

“I understand the desire for green space, but don’t get some vision of farmers’ markets and outdoor concerts,” Council Chairman Tony Payne said. “New construction, for me, seems to be potentially the best option on the table for the library if we can sell enough to offset it.”

The approximately 10 acres behind the school buildings would also be listed for sale with either of these plans.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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Council delays discussion of Route 1 business limits

FALMOUTH — In a last-minute decision Monday, the Town Council postponed discussion of a possible limit on building footprints in the town’s Route 1 business district.

“The reason that was postponed is because we have a heavy agenda tonight,” Councilor Bonny Rodden, the Community Development Committee chairwoman, said. “This has attracted a lot of attention and we want to have more time.”

The CDC-proposed limit of not more than 75,000 square feet for single-occupancy buildings and 120,000 square feet for multiple-business buildings comes at the same time as a plan by Walmart to expand into the Regal Cinemas space at the Falmouth Plaza shopping center. The move would create a single-occupant store significantly larger than the proposed limit.

The change was proposed by the CDC, a council subcommittee, as part of its discussion of a 2005 Route 1 study.

Walmart has not yet submitted its plan to the Planning Board, but has signed a lease for the theater space. The company said two weeks ago that if the town limits its expansion, it would likely look elsewhere for other options.

If Walmart breaks ground before the council makes its decision, the expansion would be allowed under existing rules.

The issue is expected to be taken up at a meeting early next year.

— Emily Parkhurst

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