Former Falmouth subdivision closer to becoming open space

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FALMOUTH — For only the second time in recent history, the town is vacating plans for a subdivision.

The 17-lot Overlook Farms Subdivision off Gray Road, which was approved by the Planning Board in 2014, is instead being preserved as open space.

The Falmouth Land Trust purchased the 62-acre property in West Falmouth last June for $700,000, with financial support from the town. The parcel is now known as Hurricane Valley Farm.

The town contributed $400,000 from its seldom-used Parks Land Capital Fund. The remaining $300,000 was raised by FLT through a capital campaign. It was FLT’s first land acquisition since 2000, when it acquired the Blackstrap Hill Preserve.

Ethan Croce, the town’s senior planner, said the only other time he could recall a subdivision being vacated was six years ago, when the owner of the Sherwood Forest subdivision on Woodville Road decided not to develop the 12-lot parcel.

Croce said vacating a subdivision is a two-step process.

The first is having the Town Council terminate the town’s right of incipient dedication for the subdivision’s roadways, which, in this case, are Halter Road and Overlook Farm Road. The council accomplished that at its Dec. 14 meeting.

The second step is Planning Board approval, which will vacate all other aspects of the subdivision, such as easements and other restrictions.

“We haven’t received an application from (FLT),” Croce said. “I expect it will be forthcoming shortly.”

Croce said once the application is in, he expects it will be nothing more than an administrative action item on the Planning Board agenda, likely in February. Administrative action items are voted on as a slate and without discussion, unless a board member or a member of the public wants to discuss a particular item. After the board’s approval, the lots and easements will be eliminated, and a single, merged parcel will remain.

“This doesn’t happen that often,” Croce said. “Usually when people develop a subdivision they do it to make money off the lots.”

Analiese Larson, FLT’s executive director, said the trust hopes to be on the Planning Board’s agenda as early in the winter as possible, either in January or February.

She said a lot of work has been done on the property, including a 1.4-mile trail system that has been opened to the public, and fields that are being maintained for agricultural use. Hay was cut twice over the summer, after a nesting bird survey was completed, and produced several thousand bales. A barn and fences received some maintenance, too.

Additionally, Larson said, an operational and management committee continues to meet to steward the property. She said FLT and the committee is preparing a request for proposals  to find tenant farmers for the parcel.

“That will probably go out in mid-2016,” she said, with the hope of having one or two farmers signed on by fall 2016.

Larson said the feedback FLT has received so far regarding the parcel has been “terrific.”

“People are delighted it was not developed and it was going to stay as open space and be used for agricultural purposes,” she said.

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

Falmouth is vacating a 17-lot subdivision at Hurricane Valley Farm after the Falmouth Land Trust purchased the 62-acre property in June.

Falmouth Land Trust’s Hurricane Valley Farm, off Gray Road, has 1.4 miles of public trails.

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