FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a footprint limit for businesses in the Route 1 commercial district.
The vote put an end to four months of negotiations and council debate over limits on the size of businesses along Route 1.
Councilor Bonny Rodden said establishing a maximum footprint is the first step in planning the future of Falmouth and Route 1.
“With a vote tonight the council will take a major step in defining the character of our town,” she said Monday night. “(With the vote) we are saying Falmouth is a community that thrives on small business and a walkable environment for residents. With this vote we are giving parameters to the business community.”
Against the wishes of many business owners and advocates, who said setting a limit puts unnecessary constraints on businesses, councilors set ground-floor tenant footprint limits of 50,000 square feet for new construction and 60,000 square feet for existing nonconforming tenant spaces, like the former Shaw’s supermarket building in the Falmouth Shopping Center.
The 60,000-square-foot limit on nonconforming spaces allows existing spaces to “square off” to make reconfiguring that space easier.
Rodden said that although she would have preferred a smaller limit, the 50,000-square-foot limit will make a difference.
“The towns that will be successful in the future are the ones that distinguish themselves from other municipalities in the state, and we are taking that step tonight,” she said.
Council Chairwoman Faith Varney, who favored larger footprint limits, ultimately voted in support of the new ordinance.
“We’ve come a long way,” Varney said. “I’m not sure I agree, but the way this council is going, I think that is the way we are going.”
After the vote, Councilor Sean Mahoney said he hopes Town Manager Nathan Poore moves forward with a plan to work with business proponents and other interested residents on further changes to the Route 1 business district.
“Addressing some of those issues is going to go a long way in moving toward walking the walk as far as what we mean for business,” he said.
Winning over business owners could still be an uphill climb.
Elizabeth Moss, owner of Elizabeth Moss Gallery, said she is disappointed in the council’s decision to approve any footprint limit.
“I think the 50,000 has not killed, but has been a contributing factor to limiting potential new tenants,” Moss said Tuesday. “I don’t understand how it equates to being pro-business, when the entire business community tells you the zoning ordinance is going to have negative impact on the entire tenancy.”