Falmouth survey, testimony result in little clarity on Foreside lot

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FALMOUTH — After nearly a year of meetings, surveys and public hearings, there is still little clarity about what to do with town-owned property at 260 Foreside Road.

At a Town Council meeting Feb. 15, neighbor after neighbor stood up to advocate for a variety of different uses for the 3.3-acre property, from adding a community pool to building a tennis court.

Meanwhile, in an online survey, neighbors of the property adjacent to Underwood Park overwhelmingly argued against adding any parking. Conversely, residents in other parts of town, as well as those with boat moorings, said additional parking should be a priority.

The online survey regarding future uses for the property, which the town purchased in 2007, had the highest participation rate among similar surveys the town has conducted, according to Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long-range planning and economic development.

According to Holtwijk, 439 people responded to the month-long survey. He said more than half the respondents live in the neighborhood, while the remainder were either other Falmouth residents or those who have moorings at Town Landing.

In addition to asking whether new parking is needed, the survey also asked, if so, how many new spots should there be and whether the parking area should be paved or left in a more natural state.

In reviewing the survey data, Holtwijk said staff created draft recommendations that called for integrating the 260 Foreside site into Underwood Park. Ten to 12 parking spots on grass or gravel for cars or trucks only – no boat trailers – were also included. 

The survey results also showed respondents support a ban on overnight parking, a dispenser for pet waste bags and a gazebo, along with improving the playground at the park.

However, when residents stood up to speak, it became clear the survey results did not include everything neighbors have been considering or discussing.

Most who spoke last week live near 260 Foreside and Underwood Park, and nearly all of them agreed no new parking should be added. But when it came to possible future uses for the town-owned lot, there was a variety of suggestions.

“In conversations with my neighbors, a swimming pool would be welcome,” Deborah Kain said, adding such an amenity would be “beneficial for health and fitness.”

Stephanie Fairchild said there is also support for a community garden, which would help lessen Falmouth’s carbon footprint, build community and teach kids about food production.

Two young boys also spoke up to say they would like to at least see a basketball court at the site. But, Gus Noble, who spends a lot of time at the park, said he would also love to see the town put in a pool and a tennis court.

Neighbor Tommy Johnson called Underwood Park, and, by extension, 260 Foreside, “a great local spot for the neighborhood,” saying whatever the town does, “there needs to be a balance between development and open space.”

He also said it would be beneficial if the town did a better job of linking open space in the neighborhood through sidewalks or trails.

“I rallied the neighborhood to respond to the survey, and I hope you’ll take (the results) into consideration,” Johnson added.

Neighbors Mara Sanchez and Cyrus Noble both felt whatever is done, the park should be treated like a valuable resource, left intact and not broken up for parking.

While the council took public comment Feb. 15, Chairwoman Karen Farber said councilors are not ready to make a final decision.

In the end, members agreed they would send the issue back to the ad hoc committee of Councilors Caleb Hemphill, Ned Kitchel and Charlie McBrady, who were appointed in March 2016.

Holtwijk said after the meeting that he wouldn’t expect to see the item back before the full council until at least the second meeting in March. 

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

For nearly a year Falmouth has been weighing the best use of this 3-acre property at 260 Foreside Road, adjacent to Underwood Park.