Falmouth seeks uses for Foreside Road property bought at a premium

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council wants residents to help compile a wish list of uses for property at 260 Foreside Road that the town purchased more than two years ago for $261,000 more than its assessed value.

The town purchased the 3.3 acres, often referred to as the former Brown property, in March 2007 for $580,000. Records on the town Web site indicate the property, which included an 1,800-square-foot house built around 1850, was assessed at about $319,000. The land value was $255,000 and the house was nearly $64,000. In 2008, the assessment amount for the land increased to nearly $352,000, or a total of $432,000 including the house, still $148,000 less than the town’s acquisition cost.

At the time it was purchased, “part of the thought process was to keep the back part of the property and sell the front with the house and recoup half or more of our investment,” Town Manager Nathan Poore said Tuesday. But, “the house wasn’t worth what we thought it might be – the town of Falmouth has been hurt by this real estate decline,” he said. The decision was made this spring to have the structure torn down.

When the town bought the property, it was viewed as an opportunity for several different municipal uses, including open space, additional parking for Town Landing and playing fields, Poore said. Even the concept of workforce housing was discussed.

Once a study on the harbor was released in August 2008, much of the council’s focus for the Brown property shifted to parking. The study determined the town needed additional parking for 103 vehicles and 10 boat trailers within walking distance of Town Landing to meet current demand and future growth. Because the property sits about 2,000 feet away, the town initiated preliminary plans for a 30-space parking lot.

But since the town has been receiving other suggestions for use of the space, including a spot for community gardens, a charette was planned to more fully include residents in the decision making process . The discussion will be held on Monday, Sept. 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Holy Martyrs Church, 266 Foreside Road. It will begin with an optional site walk of the former Brown property. After remarks by Town Council Chairwoman Cathy Breen and Poore, residents will split into small groups for an hour to address uses for the property, how the town can best manage the parking needs for Town Landing and what steps the council should take.

Though they don’t have a time frame in mind,  Poore said most likely there will be a follow-up at a council meeting in October or November. In the meantime, he said the town is working on maps of the local streets to come up with a possible plan to include on-street parking.

“Beyond that, we don’t know of any other locations,” he said. “We haven’t gone digging, but there are not a lot of undeveloped properties in that area.”

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.