Falmouth residents pack Route 100 forum

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FALMOUTH — A few days after the Town Council approved hiring Wright-Pierce for a consulting position on the Route 100 Vision project, residents crowded into Town Hall to have their voices heard for the first community forum on the project.

There was no specific focus for the Nov. 12 forum, only to gather feedback from residents about what changes they would want to see in the West Falmouth neighborhood.

“This is about the area as a whole, not just the road,” said Theo Holtwijk, director of long range planning for the town. “Collectively we think we can come up with a good plan.”

An ad-hoc committee was formed in July with nine members selected by the Town Council. Their task is to propose a vision for Route 100, which should look forward for 25 years, by July 2015. The committee is only charged with coming up with recommendations for councilors, who will decide which, if any, of the recommendations to adopt.

“We hope to have recommendations for the Town Council done by May,” Holtwijk said.

The committee has had a survey on the town web site for a little over a month, and as of the Nov. 12 meeting had received 75 responses.

The crowd last week was split into four groups for smaller discussions, and each group member was asked to list three things they would want to see changed along Route 100. Several recurring topics came up in the groups, including improved pedestrian and bike ways, preservation of the rural character, and improved intersections.

A number of general ideas were tossed around to the larger crowd to consider by Holtwijk and Andrea Ferrante, chairwoman of the committee.

About half the people in attendance raised their hands for a proposed farm-to-table restaurant in the area, while no one supported a chain restaurant or pub.

There was some reception for a small YMCA, like the one in Freeport, but no support for a commercial indoor sports complex. Most of the crowd favored a local neighborhood market, while there was hardly any support for a big-box store.

Holtwijk said the benefit of such meetings is that committee members can learn about issues that are not immediately obvious to them, but are on the minds of residents. He said the strong turnout showed people’s interest, and their desire to be “working on shaping their town.”

“The challenge will be to bring all the ideas together into a plan people will feel collectively fulfills their ideas of what Falmouth can be like,” Holtwijk said.

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.