Falmouth sports pub proposal moves to Planning Board

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FALMOUTH — More than 50 residents crowded into Town Hall Monday night for their last chance to weigh in with the Town Council on the sports bar and restaurant proposed for Tidewater Village.

Following arguments for and against the proposal, councilors sent it to the Planning Board, which will make a recommendation March 3 on the zoning and site plan review ordinance amendments needed to allow construction of a Rivalries restaurant and bar at Farm Gate Road and Clearwater Drive.

The proposal is scheduled to return to the council on March 9.

The council also scheduled public hearings for extending the Tidewater Master Plan Development District for up to an additional six months.

Lance and Amy Meader, the owners of Rivalries, previously said they scaled back designs of the restaurant from 11,000 square feet to its original footprint allowance of 8,000 square feet. At Monday night’s meeting, council Chairwoman Karen Farber said they have additionally scaled back the project, retracting a request to expand the project’s parking radius from 500 feet to 1,300 feet.

Tidewater Homeowners Association members have argued the lot sought by Rivalries is not zoned for restaurant use, only for commercial office use, per the Master Plan. Their concern is a restaurant will be open much later and on weekends, will increase traffic and noise in the neighborhood, and not have adequate parking.

“This is about the basic principles of fairness and trust in Falmouth,” Clifford Gilpin, president of association, said. “We expect the town to protect the ordinance and protect what has been a successful housing development.”

But several Falmouth residents came out to support Rivalries and the Meaders. Many said they saw a need for a family-friendly restaurant like Rivalries.

“The need for a restaurant (like this) in Falmouth is great,” said Tommy Johnson of Underwood Road, alluding to the fact there is only one other similar restaurant in the area. “You have a willing occupant who wants to come in.”

Councilors seemed inclined to move forward with the Rivalries plan.

“There’s a project with a willing developer and investor,” Vice Chairman David Goldberg said, adding he is concerned that not allowing the project would “send a signal” to businesses that Falmouth is not business friendly.

Goldberg also said the “vision” of the Route 1 renovation project was to build a commercial center in Falmouth, “a place where people want to go, not just need to go.”

The council also heard from Nathan Bateman, a developer of Tidewater, about amendments he is requesting in order to complete the area.

The changes include allowing an 11,000-square-foot footprint instead of the current 8,000-square-foot maximum on another parcel, which would allow a two-story, 22,000-square-foot medical office building.

He also wants the town to allow 10 additional units of residential housing in two buildings, connected by a two-story lobby, stair tower and elevator.

Bateman is also seeking a reduction in the amount of retail space set aside on undeveloped lots, because he has been unable to attract retail users to existing spaces in the development.

The council scheduled a public hearing on his requests for March 9, along with a hearing about extending the Master Plan for up to six months. The plan is slated to expire April 4; if it does, any undeveloped land will revert back to its original zoning.

Rather than extend the plan 10 years, which Tidewater LLC requested, the council decided up to six months would be adequate to clarify terms and conditions.

“It’s important for the Town Council to not rush into another 10-year extension without review,” Councilor Caleb Hemphill said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.