Falmouth sports pub proposal poised for final Planning Board review

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FALMOUTH — After nine months, the debate over a sports pub and restaurant off Clearwater Drive could be nearing its end.

The Planning Board was scheduled to vote on an application from Portland-based Rivalries on Tuesday, Sept. 1. But that meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum. The board rescheduled its meeting to Sept. 8, but it is not certain if the Rivalries application will be considered or if the applicants will wait until October.

Ethan Croce, the town’s senior planner, on Tuesday said there have been no substantial changes to the application since it last appeared before the board in June. He said the biggest pieces of information that were missing previously were traffic and parking studies commissioned by the applicant.

“This will really be first meeting where the Planning Board has had the benefit of that information and being able to analyze it,” he said, after which the board will make a decision. “… I suspect it will be subject of a lot of discussion.”

Rivalries owner Lance Meader on Tuesday said getting a Maine Department of Transportation traffic permit was not a problem. He said the traffic and parking studies were done by engineers hired by Rivalries.

“Overall, it was just minor details here and there being addressed,” he said.

The debate over Rivalries began last December, when the proposal went before the Town Council and generated backlash from residents of the nearby Tidewater Farm mixed-use neighborhood. Since then it has appeared before the council and Planning Board on several occasions.

Because of the opposition, plans for the restaurant have been reduced. The initial proposal called for a two-story, 11,400-square-foot restaurant with more than 200 seats. That was later reduced to less than 8,000 square feet. The plan now before the Planning Board is for a single-story building, with a footprint of 4,600 square feet and 125 seats.

Croce said the size and number of seats inside the building, however, has not changed.

Much of the debate stemmed from parking and traffic issues. Neighbors said the restaurant didn’t have enough on-site parking, and expressed concerns about patrons driving and parking on Farm Gate Road.

Robert Isler, a member of the Tidewater Farm Homeowner’s Association, said they still have concerns about the final plans, specifically adequate screening and the “sudden appearance of parking spots on Farm Gate Road,” which he said were never part of the original presentation to the Town Council or Planning Board.

According to the traffic study, 25 on-site parking spaces will be provided; 20 additional leased spots will be in an adjacent lot in Tidewater Village, with 20 more shared spots in another lot.

Additionally, the study said up to 35 public parking spots could be on the north side of Clearwater Drive, with 25 parallel spots on the south side, and 15 spaces on Hat Trick Drive. The proposal also includes nine parking spots on Farm Gate Road. Because the plan calls for 125 seats inside, only 52 parking spots were required.

Isler said residents hope the board denies the nine spots on Farm Gate Road, since it was “never contemplated to have on-street, permanent business parking” in the master plan for the neighborhood.

“It really impacts the gateway entrance to our community in a fairly negative way,” Isler said.

If the board approves, Croce said, this will be the last time the board sees this application.

The plan will return to the Town Council, which must grant access to Hat Trick Drive, a town-owned road. Councilors in the past have generally expressed support for the Rivalries plan.

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

The site of the proposed Rivalries sports bar and restaurant at the corner of Clearwater Drive and Farm Gate Road in Falmouth.

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.