n-falplanningboard-010809 Board cool to panel's vision for old schools

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FALMOUTH — The committee formed to come up with proposals for two soon-to-be obsolete schools got a chilly reception at Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting.
The board met to conduct a progress review of the Ad Hoc Community Facilities Committee. It also conducted a pre-application sketch plan review of Tidewater Conservation Foundation’s Regional Learning Resource Center.
With eventual construction of a new school, the Lunt and Plummer Motz school buildings on Lunt Road, will be vacated. The Facilities Committee has been discussing possible uses for the property and whether or not the buildings can be renovated and re-purposed, committee Chairman Phil Kaplan said.
The committee plans what Kaplan called a “facilitated event” for the community in March to gather feedback and ideas from residents.
“We look at this as a pretty critical project in the future of Falmouth,” he told the board. “It’s centrally located and has the potential to have a real big impact in what happens in our community and right now there are a lot of variables.”
Kaplan said the committee would like the town to keep the buildings and reuse as much of them as possible if they can be made energy efficient.
Planning Board member Bill Lunt said it sounded like the group had already made a decision.
“Why, in the economic times we’re in today, would we consider trying to hang on to buildings that aren’t sustainable for school buildings?” Lunt asked. “Why wouldn’t we unload them to the guy who’d love to have them and probably put them back on the tax roles? Oceanview owns the whole block.”
Lunt was referring to Oceanview’s letter to the town earlier this year that expressed interest in buying the Lunt Road property, which is adjacent to the retirement community.
Kaplan said the committee is looking at the “unique opportunity” the town has with the land, one of the last centrally located undeveloped properties owned by the town, suggesting it could be a town center or green.
But Lunt once again criticized the committee for undertaking more than its charge.
“It sounds to me like this committee is working on preserving that area down there and that to me is a decision and not open minded,” he said. “I’m very concerned about that as a taxpayer. I’m very concerned.”
The board also listened to preliminary plans for Tidewater Conservation Foundation’s Regional Learning Resource Center from David Bateman, of Bateman Partners, and Joe Laverriere, of DeLuca-Hoffman Associates.
The 7,500-square-foot resource center would be phase one of the project that most likely will be built in three phases, Bateman said.
“The regional learning center is the absolutely critical piece to the overall success of the Tidewater Conservation piece,” Bateman said.
Phase two would most likely be the farmhouse and barn, which would be used for a culinary school and other educational endeavors. Phase three would be a 75-room inn with an organic restaurant.
Though nothing was decided, the evening’s discussion dealt broadly with such issues as the amount of parking, above-ground versus underground utilities, road widths and buffering from neighboring homes. The board also debated the benefits of routing traffic to the facility via Lunt Road rather than down Clearwater Drive.
The applicants will be back before the board to seek site plan review, which must then be approved by the Town Council before the applicants return to the Planning Board, Senior Planner Ethan Croce said.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.