Falmouth seeks bids for former school properties

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FALMOUTH — Private-sector bids are being sought for the former Plummer-Motz and Lunt school buildings and land on Lunt Road.

At its Monday night meeting, the Town Council approved a 13-page request for proposals from developers interested in purchasing or leasing all or part of the 20-acre property.

The vote was 5-0 to solicit proposals for the buildings the School Department replaced with an elementary school that will soon open on Woodville Road. Councilor Will Armitage abstained and Councilor Fred Chase was absent.

“I think we’re not being fair to the development community because we’re influencing the outcome of this,” Armitage said. “I don’t think this is what we should be sending out.”

Other councilors indicated that the RFP was not exactly what they wanted, but that it is time to move forward.

“I don’t agree with everything in the RFP, but we’ve reached the point when we need to go out (to bid),” Councilor Faith Varney said.

The RFP comes after voters rejected a plan in June to turn Lunt School into a library, Motz into a community center and renovate the Plummer building for possible lease.

The RFP specifically asks developers to consider possible civic uses for the space, but does not require that a community center or library be included. It mentions a community center, but there is no mention in the RFP of a possible move of the Falmouth Memorial Library to the site.

Library Board of Trustees President Chantal Walker said after Monday’s meeting that she was saddened and disappointed by the council’s decision to leave the library out of the RFP, but that she was not surprised they did.

“If they had included (the library), I think they would have gotten a lot more fire (from speakers) tonight,” Walker said.

“The trustees are in it for the long haul, though, and are still working towards acquiring a larger facility,” she added.

The RFP does ask that the facades of the Lunt and Plummer buildings, specifically the clock tower on Plummer, be preserved, if possible. It also states that tax increment financing or other financial assistance would be considered if proposed.

Developers can submit more than one RFP for the site.

The council has not decided if it will review the RFPs in a private executive session or in public. Councilors privately reviewed a previous plan for development of the school properties last month with developers of the neighboring retirement facility, OceanView.

During a public hearing on the RFP, speakers were evenly split for and against the need for a community center.

“I don’t want a community center,” Lunt Road resident Kathy Smith said. “I don’t want a pool now, and not later. I think we should put it up for sale and get some tax revenue from it.”

Bob Hunt suggested the council consider carving the Motz and Mason gym section of the property out of development plans and spend less than $1 million to renovate it enough for use by the town’s community programs, then sell the rest of the property to a private developer.

Avon Road resident Lisa Agnew asked the council to consider commissioning a study to determine where the best location for a community center might be.

“I think this is an issue that will not go away regardless of this RFP,” she said.

The deadline for proposals is noon, Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.