Falmouth panel calls for $9.3M investment in Route 1 North

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FALMOUTH — It would cost an estimated $9.3 million to fully implement a proposed Route 1 North master plan, the Town Council was told Monday.

Much of the spending, however, could be offset through the use of tax increment financing, so there would be little to no impact on property taxes.

The Route 1 North Committee presented its final report after nearly two years of meetings. The report contains a variety of recommendations, including significant investments in the roadway and open space infrastructure.

However, faced with other infrastructure improvement projects, including a $10.5 million rebuilding of Route 100, councilors decided to put off any immediate action.

The Route 1 North corridor is the 1.3-mile, 323-acre stretch between the Maine Turnpike spur and the Cumberland town line, with “several key undeveloped sites,” according to committee Chairman Chris Wasileski.

Wasileski said the committee’s goals included making suggestions that would “provide high value to the town and add to its tax base,” as well as creating “a true sense of place and provide visibility” for that part of Falmouth.

On the west side of Route 1, the committee is recommending creation of an “innovation and technology ridge.” On the east side the panel recommends mixed uses that would include homes – ranging from single-family to work-live spaces –and commercial uses ranging from light industrial and medical to hotels.

Zoning changes would be needed to allow most of these uses, which also include what the report describes as “neighborhood-oriented, small-scale retail and restaurants” with road frontage.

The committee is recommending gateway improvements such as landscaping, lighting and signage at both the north and south ends of the corridor; dedicated turn lanes on Route 1; installing crosswalks and sidewalks, and new intersection signals.

In addition, the committee recommends working with METRO to improve bus stops; minimizing new curb cuts onto Route 1, and additional trees and street lighting.

In terms of open space, the committee recommends the creation of a Norton Brook Watershed Management Plan, along with making trail connections between Route 1 North and other areas of town.

The plan also recommends the development of “a strategic trail plan that incorporates existing trails, new trails, trail amenities, trail signage, parking and trail maps.”

The committee also suggests the town require developers to adhere to specific landscape guidelines.

Wasileski said a market analysis of the corridor shows Route 1 North should attempt to “complement, but not compete with Route 1 South.”

He also said there is “limited retail potential” in the area and all development should be “build to suit,” with specific end users in mind.

Although the committee members agreed on the majority of recommendations made, there was a difference of opinion about a 50-acre parcel owned by Peter Kennedy, on the west side of Route 1.

Speaking to the council Monday, Kennedy said “strictly adhering to the current (business professional) zoning, I would be looking at a 100-year build-out on my property.”

He asked the council to consider giving him “flexibility and latitude” by allowing mixed uses on the west side of Route 1. “I could do something really creative and special,” Kennedy said.

Otherwise, he said, “right now the only real market possibilities” are for warehouse storage.

That led some councilors to say it would be important to review the report, particularly for its impact on properties like Kennedy’s that, as Councilor Ned Kitchel said, “could include unintended consequences.”

For the most part, though, the councilors were complimentary about the report and the work of the committee.

Councilor Caleb Hemphill called it “a great report” and “very impressive,” adding that it was “another great product that would benefit the town” in the long run.

Kitchel said, “I like the vision,” while Councilor Andrea Ferrante said, “I love the plan.”

Councilors agreed to have Town Manager Nathan Poore move ahead with a preliminary engineering plan, but also asked for more time to fully digest the report.

“I don’t want to lose momentum,” Councilor Karen Farber said, “but I need time to think about this and review how it fits in with our other priorities.”

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

The Route 1 North corridor in Falmouth encompasses a 1.3-mile section that runs from the Maine Turnpike spur to the Cumberland town line.

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