Falmouth sets public hearing on contract zone for 52-acre project

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FALMOUTH — “No to Contract Zoning” signs are popping up in West Falmouth as the Town Council is set to hold a public hearing on a proposed contract zone that would allow 151 new homes and apartments.

Councilors on Sept. 11 got their first look at the development, which would also include a 6,000-square-foot commercial building.

David Chase and Town Councilor Andrea Ferrante and her husband, Matthew, are proposing to build 48 apartments and 103 single-family homes on 52 acres bound by Mountain Road, Route 100 and the Maine Turnpike.

The reason they are requesting a contract zone, according to Matthew Ek of Sebago Technics, who is representing the developers throughout the approval process, is because they would like to see a reduction in both the lot size and setback requirements in the village mixed-use zone.

Under the contract zone approval process, the council is required to hold at least one public hearing, but as Amanda Stearns, Falmouth’s community development director, pointed out last week, the town can hold more if necessary.

In fact, Stearns told councilors, “You have a lot of leeway in how you go about this process.”

While Councilor Ned Kitchel suggested the developers hold a series of public hearings on the project, the rest of the council scheduled only one, at least for now.

That hearing will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11 at Town Hall.

In introducing the project to the council, Chase said it “just feels right. It’s in a growth area and fits with the Comprehensive Plan and the town’s vision for this area.”

He also argued that the contract zone would bring housing stock to Falmouth that’s not currently available, including homes that would sell at entry point prices.

Chase admitted,”This is not a small project,” but said, “It is manageable.”

He also pointed out that the development is not being proposed for “high target open space and is not going through already established neighborhoods.” Chase also said the site includes access to sewer and water.

“I’m really excited about it and we’ll do everything we can to address traffic concerns and everything that needs to be done environmentally.”

The council did not take public comment last week, but at the Sept. 5 Planning Board meeting, several residents raised concerns about traffic, the overall size of the development and the additional burden it could put on town resources.

Some of those concerns also seemed to be on the minds of some councilors, with Claudia King saying, “This is a sizable residential development. It’s big” and “I want to know how we (go about) understanding the burden on town services.”

Town Manager Nathan Poore said staff are already working with the developers to address a number of issues, including how to best coordinate the housing project with the $10.5 million plan to substantially rebuild Route 100, which will take place in the next year or so.

But he also suggested that holding a public hearing sooner rather than later would help “set the table to begin your review” adding that the hearing could also “provide guidance to both the council and the applicant.”

Chase agreed, saying he’d like to know as soon as possible “if this project is something the council just can’t support.”

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

Residents are making their feelings known as “No to Contract Zoning” signs begin popping up in West Falmouth. The Town Council is set to start the formal review process of a 151-unit contract zone proposal in the coming weeks.