Falmouth to hold discussions on Comp Plan, Route 1

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FALMOUTH — The town’s future will be the subject of two public meetings on consecutive days next week.

First, a draft version of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan will be discussed Wednesday, Oct. 16, during a public hearing at Town Hall. Then, on Thursday, Oct. 17, the Community Development Committee will present a draft final plan of the town’s $11.7 million U.S. Route 1 redevelopment project during a public forum at the Falmouth Town Library.

Poore said the timing of the meetings was purely coincidental and shouldn’t adversely impact public participation, because the final drafts already incorporate public feedback. The Long Range Planning Advisory Committee, for instance, met about 70 times over three years, conducted a community survey and a public meeting while drafting the 2013 Comprehensive Plan.

“It’s been a long time coming and there has been a tremendous amount of public outreach,” he said.

Comprehensive Plan

The public hearing on the draft 2013 Comprehensive Plan will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall, 271 Falmouth Road.

The public hearing is meant for residents to share “any errors and omissions, red flags, questions, and/or points you agree or disagree with,” according to a report by Samuel Rudman, chairman of the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee.

The Plan is intended to guide the Town Council in making decisions during the next decade. It is meant to enhance and grow the community in “very tangible ways through seventy recommended actions,” which have been organized in three themes:

1 — Commercial hubs and economic development.

2 — Conservation, protection, and connectivity.

3 — Diverse residential opportunities.

The plan identifies commercial or mixed-use growth areas along Route 1 and Route 100, with two small residential neighborhoods developed nearby “to provide excellent accessibility to the commercial areas through walking and bicycling ways and transit links.”

The remainder of town would be designated as a rural area.

The plan was last revised in 2000. The committee has been working on the project since April 2010.

Highway revamp

A public meeting on the Route 1 streetscape improvements will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Falmouth Memorial Library, 5 Lunt Road.

The meeting is geared toward the general public but will focus primarily on property and business owners along Route 1, Poore said.

The meeting will also be less formal than a public hearing and “more like a conversation about the project,” he said. It will be one last opportunity to weigh in on the project before the design is finalized and put out to bid in November, Poore said.

The Community Development Committee, which is comprised of three councilors and supported by town employees and consultants, met on Monday to discuss in detail landscaping, stormwater treatment, greenspace development, sidewalk lighting, crosswalks and benches. The group gathered around a 12-foot-long aerial photograph of Route 1 that included everything between the intersections with Route 88 and the Falmouth Spur.

Over the course of two hours, the committee discussed the project in detail.

“They’re taking it as seriously as they should,” Poore said after the meeting. “You don’t see too many locally funded, $12 million streetscape improvement projects, especially in Maine. We don’t want to regret a decision after it’s too late, that’s why we’re spending the time that’s necessary on landscape selection, street lights and all that.”

Voters approved the Route 1 redesign project in June by a slim margin, following several years of planning. Work on the project is expected to begin in 2014.

The design incorporates changes to the zoning ordinance that were made in May, to encourage more village-like development. The zoning changes require developers to situate new storefronts close to the road with parking to the rear of properties.

Several other towns in Maine, including Yarmouth and Standish, have made similar changes in their zoning laws.

Through zoning and infrastructure changes, towns are expected to become less car-centric and more accommodating for walkers and bicyclists.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.

Sidebar Elements

Town employees and councilors gather Monday around a 12-foot-long aerial photograph of U.S. Route 1 to fine tune the town’s $11.7 million redevelopment plan for the business district. The plan will be the subject of a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17, at Falmouth Memorial Library.

If you go …

What: Town Council Public Hearing on draft 2013 Comprehensive Plan.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16.

Where: Town Hall, 271 Falmouth Road.

For more information, call Theo Holtwijk, director of long range planning, at 699-5340.

What: Public meeting on Route One streetscape improvements.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17.

Where: Falmouth Memorial Library, 5 Lunt Road.

For more information, contact Public Works Director Jay Reynolds at 781-3919.

Falmouth receives AAA credit rating from S&P

FALMOUTH — A major U.S. credit rating service has given the town its highest mark.

New York-based Standard & Poor’s has raised its rating on the town’s general obligation bonds from AA+ to AAA, according to a news release from the town on Tuesday. 

The new rating will save Falmouth money on bonds, particularly on the $5 million project to renovate Falmouth Middle School, said Town Manager Nathan Poore.

“It could be on the order of a couple hundred thousand dollars in interest savings,” Poore said. “It’s true savings, as well as bragging rights.”

The rating report was based on the town’s “strong financial condition coupled with strong management policies” and “access to the broad and diverse economy of the Greater Portland region,” according to the release. 

Falmouth also had its very strong Aa1 rating affirmed by Moody’s Investors Service.

The S&P rating makes Falmouth one of just two Maine towns to receive the score, and ranks it higher than the federal government and state of Maine. Kennebunk also has a AAA rating.

— Ben McCanna