Falmouth neighbors object to proposed duplex development

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FALMOUTH — The Planning Board heard from several residents Tuesday who are upset over development plans for a 1.5-acre lot between Falmouth and Middle roads that they say is fundamentally out of sync with the rest of the neighborhood.

The duplex project being proposed by Ryan Berube is the first test of an ordinance amendment, approved by the Town Council last summer, that encourages new residential development in already built-up areas and allows significantly increased density.

For the most part, Planning Board members agreed with the residents that the proposal, which would add six new housing units in two buildings – four at 18 Falmouth Road and two at 220 Middle Road – may have a larger scale and scope than is compatible with the neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.

After a nearly hour-long discussion, the board tabled the project and asked Tom Greer of Pinkham & Greer Civil Engineers, who represented Berube, to come back with revised plans that take into consideration the concerns expressed by both the neighbors and board members.

While the development proposal meets the technical requirements of the new ordinance rules, Planning Board members Jason Cole and Tom McKeon questioned whether it is necessary for the developer to “stretch the new ordinance to the limits.”

Critics were primarily concerned about the Falmouth Road side of the project. On the Middle Road side, the developer is planning to renovate a large historic home on the lot into two units.

For Cole, the “the scale of the buildings” being proposed “do not match the adjacent structures” and “under the aesthetic standards it just doesn’t fit. It looks like a large apartment complex.”

But Greer argued the project is “in scale for what the ordinance allows,” and just because Berube is “first in, it’s not fair to hold him to a higher standard.”

However, Jay Chace, chairman of the Planning Board, agreed with the other members, saying, “There are qualitative factors” the board must consider while weighing project approval, including whether the “greater density still meshes with the other adjacent elements.”

But Greer said the numbers would only work with four new units, which would include two-car garages and backyards for each dwelling. He also said current plans provide “the best orientation” for the development and said the goal is to create “robust landscaping to minimize the (visual) impact.”

Ron Dearth, whose property abuts the project, said he has “strong objections” because the planned development would “seriously alter the character of the neighborhood,” and the proposed density would be “out of proportion with this area of town.”

He also said while it’s now possible for the developer to “cram six families on 1.5 acres,” it would not “be in keeping with the aesthetic quality of our neighborhood.”

Another neighbor, Holly Maniatty, said, “Something like this would greatly change the neighborhood,” which consists mostly of older, single-family homes, including her own house, built in 1903.

“There’s got to be a better use for this beautiful piece of land,” she said.

Leslie Riversmith also objected to the development proposal, saying it would “change the whole flavor of our neighborhood. There are so many ways this doesn’t fit.”

George Tarbox, who lives directly across the street from the site being proposed for development, added, “When we built our house 46 years ago, we did it because this was a beautiful residential neighborhood near the schools. Now the new owners want to transform this neighborhood into something entirely different.”

And, Jim Mullin, said, “My neighbors and I have a long-term investment in the neighborhood. We see it as a place for families, and this subdivision would affect our quality of life.”

In discussing the development plan, McKeon said, “We’re just beginning to see these developments, and this is our first taste of how this will work. (And) even though the project technically complies, I am not yet persuaded that it fits this neighborhood. I am concerned about the aesthetic effect.”

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

A developer has proposed building several new duplexes on a 1.5-acre lot that stretches between Falmouth and Middle roads, but neighbors are objecting to the size and scale of the project.