Falmouth Planning Board: Rivalries can eliminate shared parking

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FALMOUTH — The Planning Board on Tuesday night approved a request to remove shared parking previously required for a proposed sports bar and restaurant near Tidewater Village.

The final vote to amend conditional site plan approval for Rivalries was 4-1, with member Rudy Israel opposed.

The project at Farm Gate Road and Clearwater Drive, which first went to the Town Council in late 2014, received conditional approval from the Planning Board last November, with the condition that Rivalries had to acquire 40 off-site parking spaces in an adjacent lot. Twenty spots were to be leased, and 20 were to be shared with nearby businesses.

James Cloutier, a Portland attorney representing the project, said the shared spaces would not add much utility and would not technically be necessary. Since the spaces would be shared, they would likely already be in use during regular business hours, he said.

William Bray, who conducted the developers’ traffic and parking study that was  reviewed by the town, said there would be a surplus of parking even without the 20 spaces. The study was based on a “worst-case scenario” with the restaurant at its 157-seat maximum capacity, he said.

“Based on the analysis, the loss of (these 20 parking spaces) does not alter the conclusion in the original report that there is ample parking within a 500-foot radius (of the building),” Bray told the board.

He said the loss of 20 spaces would only affect the restaurant after 5 p.m., but it would not be an issue because there would still be a surplus of spaces.

“I feel very comfortable saying we’ve met the worst-case scenario,” Bray said.

Dozens of people attended Tuesday’s meeting, including Falmouth residents Lance and Amy Meader, owners of Portland-based Rivalries. Four people spoke against the Meaders’ request, and one spoke in support. All said they were neighbors of the proposed restaurant.

Marigold Lane resident Andrew Hudson said there is a “fairly serious flaw” in the parking study’s premise. He said the study is based on a business model of a fairly “regular” restaurant, which Rivalries is not.

“Attendance (at Rivalries) is driven by sports events,” he said, and large sporting events, like the recent NCAA men’s basketball tournament, would drive up traffic.

“I don’t think you can rely on the conclusions of this parking study,” Hudson said.

Town Councilor Russell Anderson, who also lives on Marigold Lane, said not everyone who lives in the neighborhood feels the same as those who expressed concerns. He said he is looking forward to having Rivalries nearby.

“I respect my neighbors’ view on this, but I just don’t happen to agree with them,” Anderson said.

Rivalries is proposing a restaurant that would have 125 indoor seats and an additional 32 outdoor seasonal seats, with a single-story building of about 4,600 square feet. The business will have 25 on-site parking spots and 20 leased spots in Tidewater Village Lot 3. Fifty-three parking spots are required by ordinance, based on the number of seats.

The parking study commissioned by the Meaders said up to 35 public parking spots could be used on the north side of Clearwater Drive, with 25 parallel spots on the south side, and seven spaces on Hat Trick Drive. The proposal also includes nine parking spots on Farm Gate Road, which neighbors opposed.

While parking and traffic were concerns of Planning Board members in the past, they were largely in agreement Tuesday that there would still be sufficient parking without the 20 shared spaces.

“I believe that I am comfortable with the changes as proposed by the applicant,” Vice Chairman Thomas McKeon said, although he added he was “nervously” comfortable.

Rivalries must still meet a few remaining conditions before receiving a building permit. These include paying an inspection fee and recording a public easement over a portion of a sidewalk on Farm Gate Road. Parking agreements also must be recorded at the Registry of Deeds.

In December, the Town Council granted the project access to Hat Trick Drive, a town-owned road that runs behind Wal-Mart. Had the applicants completed all the conditions of approval from the Planning Board, the access would have been the last step before a building permit was granted.

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

Owners of Rivalries in Portland returned to the Falmouth Planning Board April 5 to get permission to build a new sports bar on this lot behind Wal-Mart off of Route 1.

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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.