Falmouth moves toward land swap with retirement community

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FALMOUTH — Town councilors on Monday night scheduled an order that will allow expansion of the OceanView retirement community campus.

The order, scheduled for the Nov. 9 meeting, calls for the town manager to draft a purchase and sale agreement for land to expand the campus by 34 units, with a portion of those units to be set aside as affordable housing for seniors. OceanView is looking to turn the former Plummer School on Lunt Road into affordable senior housing.

Per a request by Councilor Karen Farber, town staff and OceanView will explore the possibility of a land swap for the town-owned land.

Public comment will be taken at the Nov. 9 meeting. 

OceanView had originally proposed a 35-unit development, but that plan was reduced over time. Most recently, OceanView has been trying to get input from the town on one of two plans.

A smaller plan called for an expansion on existing OceanView property for 28 units of housing, with one-third of those to be set aside as affordable. The second plan was for 34 units, with those six additional units to be affordable in addition to one-third of the 28 units. The larger plan would require the conveyance of town-owned open space.

In earlier meetings, Theo Holtwijk, Falmouth’s director of long range planning, said OceanView’s plan was to keep the units affordable for 30 years for residents earning no more than 120 percent of the area median income. Holtwijk said the 2015 income levels in Falmouth for two people at 120 percent AMI is just over $74,000.

Holtwijk said the town has the opportunity to apply for an affordable housing Tax Increment Financing District, and there would be flexibility as to how the TIF tax dollars could be used.

Under a TIF agreement, part of the amount paid in taxes is set aside in a Tax Increment Financing account for a certain length of time, to be applied toward future projects in predetermined areas of town. Any additional valuation that results from a TIF is not considered by the state when it determines a town’s valuation.

Holtwijk said this TIF could be used for capital expenses at the Mason Motz activity center, to underwrite operational expense at the center, and to subsidize operational expenses at the Plummer building.

On Monday night, Holtwijk said the land in question makes up roughly 9 percent of a nearly 2 1/2-acre parcel of open space. The land is between the Plummer and Lunt schools.

Holtwijk said the smaller plan would generate roughly $82,000 in taxes each year, and the larger project would generate an additional $17,500 each year. Without the TIF, the town’s net gain for the smaller project would be around $28,500. The additional net gain without the TIF for the larger project would be just over $6,100.

Holtwijk said if a TIF is placed on the parcel for 30 years, then the net additional tax gain would be just over $527,500 in exchange for a portion of town land.

The second plan requires the conveyance of less than a quarter of an acre of town land known as the Village Green to OceanView, which had been a sticking point for councilors in past discussions. Two of the three residents – both of whom are former councilors – who spoke at Monday night’s meeting also expressed concern about the second plan.

Peggy McGehee, of Stonecrest Drive, said there has not been nearly enough opportunity for the public to learn about and engage in conversations on the topic. She said a town-wide survey should be done to see what residents think should happen to the space.

“Many residents don’t even know it’s town property,” McGehee said.

Bonny Rodden, of Shoreline Drive, said she was on the council during the sale of the land to OceanView in 2012, and said she had a vision for Village Green being a community area. She said she supports the idea of affordable housing, but doesn’t think the 120 percent AMI does enough.

She added the council was “doing it piecemeal,” and that the public “has the right to know all the elements being considered.”

“Frankly, I really don’t think you’ve paid attention to the public,” Rodden told the council.

Edith Anne Lydick, of Bayshore Drive, was the only member of the public to speak in favor of the larger proposal. She said senior citizens are proud people who have contributed a lot to the community, and providing affordable housing is “not too much to ask.”

“They do not and will not ask for subsidies, so I’m asking for them,” Lydick said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Falmouth Town Hall

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.