Falmouth panel wants input on 'grander vision' for Route 1 North

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FALMOUTH — A town committee working to create a vision for the future of the Route 1 North corridor wants public input on possible infrastructure improvements or land use changes.

Two public sessions are planned for Wednesday, Jan. 25, at TideSmart Global, 380 U.S. Route 1. One session will be held from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and the second will be held from 5-6:30 p.m.

The goal, particularly with the morning session, is to hear from people employed by the companies along the stretch of Route 1  from the Maine Turnpike spur to the Cumberland town line, according to Theo Holtwijk, Falmouth’s director of long range planning and development.

“We really want to hear from the people employed in this area because they are likely to have a different perspective” from property owners or residents, Holtwijk said. “We want as many people to participate as possible, especially because Route 1 is a hugely important tax generator” for the town.

“In our view, innovation, entrepreneurship, healthy living, livability and green development all have a place here. It’s exciting to think of what’s possible, from making Route 1 accessible to transportation users of all types to creating an area (of town) that’s good to work and recreate in,” he said.

Holtwijk said the public sessions, along with an online survey, which can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/falmouthroute1north, are all designed to “ensure responsible development” within the corridor.

“We are looking for specific ideas for change. We want to get a sense of what is most important to people and then see what floats to the top,” he said. Ultimately the Route 1 North Committee will make a recommendation to the Town Council for implementation, Holtwijk said.

The visioning for Route 1 North is running on a parallel track to the complete streets work being done on the 10 miles of Route 1 between Falmouth and Yarmouth.

Holtwijk said the complete streets project, which is being funded by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, focuses more on the streetscape itself, including making improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists.

While the Route 1 North project is also concerned with such upgrades, Holtwijk said its focus is also on questions of land use and zoning and answering the question of “how does this area move forward?”

“The consultants (on both projects) are working together,” he said. “Although the Route 1 North work is being driven by Falmouth and is a local issue, the recommendations need to work together and not be in conflict.”

Right now, Holtwijk said, Route 1 North in Falmouth is zoned for professional office development, but the question is: “What else could be allowed there? And, what opportunities or limits are there based on the natural resources?”

For instance, he said that just over the town line in Cumberland mixed use housing is allowed along Route 1 and the question is whether Falmouth might also be interested in allowing that type of land use.

In addition, Holtwijk pointed out that there are at least three parcels of 50 acres or more that are undeveloped along this part of Route 1, “but developers have recently been exploring the (possibilities)” of what could be done there.

Holtwijk said Route 1 North is an important part of Falmouth’s commercial and mixed use growth areas and he sees making improvements along this stretch of road the third leg of upgrades already made on Route 1 South and planned for Route 100 this spring.

He said the town spent about $12 million making improvements to Route 1 from the intersection of Route 88 to the turnpike spur and will spend another $10.5 million on its vision for Route 100.

“We haven’t really looked at Route 1 North,” Holtwijk said, although the town has been setting aside funds for improvements along that part of the roadway through tax increment financing agreements for the past several years.

Overall, he said, the Route 1 North Committee is looking for “what kinds of improvements make sense” and is also asking “is there an interest or need for additional infrastructure improvements?”

Chris Wasileski, chairman of the Route 1 North Committee, said that with the public sessions and online survey, “we are looking for the best possible creative feedback from those who live and work” in the area.

“We want to know the issues and the opportunities for the future,” he added. And agreed with Holtwijk that the work on Route 1 North would “complete the picture” for the other road work also going on.

Wasileski said his committee has already heard from some folks during their meetings over the past several months, but now “we are looking for broader input. This is an opportunity for people to speak up, be heard and be part of the process.”

He said the goal is not only to look at possible short term improvements, but to “really think about what could be done to power the future of the corridor for the next 20 to 30 years. This is not about short-term gain, but a grander vision.”

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

A Falmouth committee is seeking public comment on the future of the Route 1 North corridor, which runs from the Maine Turnpike spur to the Cumberland town line.