Falmouth Route 1 North plan calls for mixed uses, improved trail system

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FALMOUTH — While there is some disagreement about whether mixed uses should be allowed along the entirety of the Route 1 North corridor, the general sentiment at a public hearing Tuesday was that the area is primed for growth.

That’s why it’s important to create a vision and avoid allowing development to occur by happenstance, committee members said.

The Route 1 North Committee has been working on a plan for the 1.3-mile section from the Maine Turnpike spur to the Cumberland town line since November 2015, and is now closing in on its final report to the Town Council.

The committee’s goal is to present final recommendations to the council in May.

If the council adopts the plan, staff would begin work on how best to implement the recommendations, including creating zoning amendments and setting aside funds as necessary.

Under the draft plan, the corridor would continue the business zone on the west side of Route 1, with the intent of creating what consultant David Woodward, of the engineering firm, called an “innovation and technology ridge.”

Along other parts of the corridor, other mixed uses would be allowed, including single- and multi-family homes; professional and medical offices; hotels; light industrial, and small-scale retail or other commercial development, Woodward said.

In addition, the vision for Route 1 North would include minimizing curb cuts, developing design guidelines for residential projects, and building sidewalks and shared use paths, as well as developing new trail systems that would connect with existing trails.

The plan also calls for making gateway improvements at both the north and south ends of the corridor, as well as at the Johnson Road intersection. Those improvements would include landscaping, lighting and signs.

In terms of preserving open space, the committee is calling for a Norton Brook Watershed Management Plan, as well as a strategic trail plan that would increase the number of walking trails and related amenities.

Overall, Geoffrey Morrison-Logan, another consultant at VHB, said the goal should be to focus on build-to-suit development and attracting end-users for whom cost is not the sole factor when choosing a site location.

Woodward added the whole idea is to encourage “neighborhood oriented development,” while also providing flexibility in zoning and ensuring any new projects are compatible with both the natural surroundings and the businesses already located within the corridor.

Chris Wasileski, chairman of the Route 1 North Committee, said this week’s public forum was a chance for residents, business owners and property owners to weigh in and make suggestions or share their ideas and concerns.

Morrison-Logan said the recommendations from the committee were all informed by previous public workshops and an online survey.

Three dozen or so people attended this week’s public forum, including all of the members of the Route 1 North Committee, town staff and some councilors.

Among the members of the public, most were complimentary of the plan, particularly the goal of allowing for pedestrian, bicycle and public transit improvements.

However, there was some doubt about the plan to keep Route 1 two lanes wide in that area of town, particularly with Cumberland creating three lanes along much of its section of the roadway.

Some also questioned the viability of development along the corridor, citing the slow state of growth there so far and the high cost of construction due to ledge, steep slopes and other topographical challenges.

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

Members of Falmouth’s Route 1 North Committee solicited input from the public at a forum held Tuesday. The committee hopes to have a final draft of its vision for the corridor ready by the end of May.