Falmouth panels ponder future uses of town land

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FALMOUTH — Two town committees came together in a non-traditional meeting last week to discuss what the future of Falmouth might look like.

The Long Range Planning Advisory Committee and Community Development Committee met Oct. 9 for the town’s first outreach meeting on development. The two panels were charged with coming up with recommendations to maintain the rural character of the town, while also encouraging residential growth in designated growth areas.

Representatives from both committees and members of the public participated in the circle discussion, which centered mostly on preservation of rural areas, although there was acknowledgment that some growth is necessary there, too.

“The goal isn’t to stop all growth in the (rural) area,” said Theo Holtwijk, the director of long-range planning.

There was also conversation about encouraging residential development in commercial areas, with the intent to create a healthy mix of the two that would make commercial places more vibrant.

Town Councilor Charlie McBrady said he had some concerns with residential development in the commercial zones. He said Route 1 could be commercially developed “to no end,” but if it is also developed for residences, services like schools, ambulances, police and others could suffer from increased demand.

“At what point do you say you don’t want to burden the town?” McBrady asked.

Holtwijk asked the group how they would “most effectively use land in Falmouth.” He said that there isn’t a lot of land available in the commercial areas, and there aren’t many vacant lots in the residential zones, so they have to “use everything we have smartly.”

Town Manager Nathan Poore pointed out it that during the 1980s, Falmouth only had around 6,000 residents. Since then, the population has nearly doubled. Poore said if the population doubled again in another 30 years, “eventually the (rural spaces) would look different.”

Aside from disrupting rural characteristics, developing residential growth in the rural areas would add costs to the town. If more homes are built in these areas, more services like plowing and school buses would have to be provided.

Given that Falmouth is credited for having a school system that attracts families, participants at the discussion said population growth will undoubtedly continue.

No decisions were made either way at the meeting, but there was agreement that a second meeting with real estate workers would be beneficial. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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

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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.