Neighbors hope to stop 32-unit Falmouth housing project

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FALMOUTH — Neighbors concerned about the impact of a proposed 32-unit residential development off Blackstrap Road are weighing their options for challenging town approval of the project.

At its Sept. 5 meeting, the Planning Board gave preliminary approval to Tuscan Way, which consists of 16 new duplexes clustered on a nearly three-acre parcel on the larger 18.3-acre development site at 80 Blackstrap.

Ethan Croce, Falmouth’s town planner, said this week that while neighbors have the right to file an appeal with Cumberland County Superior Court, they would likely have to wait until final approval is granted to developer James Cummings.

He said the Planning Board could vote on whether to allow the project to go forward at its Nov. 7 meeting, but that would be the earliest it could grant final approval.

Even so, Whitney Bradford, who lives at 19 Brookfield Road and is one of the residents leading the charge against the Tuscan Way project, said Monday that she and her neighbors are “investigating filing an appeal of the preliminary approval and the retention of an attorney.”

Bradford said neighbors are mostly concerned with the density of the development, including additional traffic.

However, there are also serious concerns with the proposal made by Cummings because the 32 units would be serviced by one clustered septic system, as opposed to a separate sewer system for each building.

“We would prefer single-family homes with their own septic systems,” Bradford said this week. “They are proposing a cluster septic system that we believe is undersized and not in compliance and could potentially pollute the Presumpscot River.”

What’s been the most frustrating to neighbors, she added, is, “we have been showing up for months and months and writing letters and emails and … nothing seemed to matter” as the Planning Board continued to move forward with project approval.

“Several people stood and spoke at each and every meeting,” Bradford said, with “neighbors from Brook Road, Brookfield Road, Blackstrap and Hamlin Road all express(ing) their concerns.”

She said the issues raised include that “duplexes don’t fit (with) our small, quiet, neighborhood, the project is too dense (and the) traffic and safety impacts were too great.”

In addition, Bradford said residents of Brookfield Road, in particular, object to a proposal to connect the new development through a new access road.

Bradford said another issue is residents in that part of town didn’t know it had been designated as a growth area by Falmouth’s most recent Comprehensive Plan.

“We were led to believe that (any) future development of that undeveloped parcel would probably be three or four houses” at most, she said.

While she acknowledges the Planning Board has questioned Cummings about the density of the Tuscan Way development several times, Bradford said the developer has never complied with suggestions to reduce the size of the project.

“In fact, he’s inflated the density since his original plan in January,” she said.

“They know traffic is a major issue in the area, but yet they insist on connectivity,” Bradford said. “The taxpayers are feeling that they are not being heard and that the little guy doesn’t matter.”

The Tuscan Way project, and others like it, were the impetus behind Councilor Claudia King proposing a moratorium on housing projects in the town’s growth areas at the Sept. 11 council meeting.

However, the council instead appointed Councilors Caleb Hemphill and Aaron Svedlow to look into the issue and come back with some recommendations for addressing inconsistencies in the zoning ordinances.

Evelyn Hundley, and her husband Steve, who live at 2 Brookfield Road, agree with Bradford that the Tuscan Way project is too dense and not appropriate for the neighborhood.

“Many neighbors showed up at the Planning Board meetings and … I believe without fail each neighbor got up and said we would be fine with a development in that particular area but not of the scope that is being planned,” Hundley said this week.

“We feel (this project) is unsafe and is just (about) a greedy developer trying to get the very most he can get without regard for all the issues raised. The developer is just not budging from the extreme building he wants to do.”

So, Hundley said, “If necessary we will hire an attorney to help make sense of all of this. We are (trying) to find out how to appeal the preliminary proposal, which has been granted by the Planning Board.”

Like Bradford, Hundley said in addition to the number of housing units being planned, the neighbors’ main concerns are about the septic system and traffic.

“We feel (the septic plan) is environmentally dangerous to surrounding areas, can contaminate groundwater and flow into the Presumpscot River (and) we don’t understand why the Planning Board is not taking (this) hazard seriously,” she said.

Hundley echoed Bradford’s concerns about the traffic, saying, “We live in a very quiet neighborhood, which is why we bought here and live on a cul-de-sac. This new development would tie into our street and change the whole scope of our neighborhood.”

Hundley said while suing the town may seem like a drastic step, it may be necessary because “the town just doesn’t seem to be listening to its citizens. We are extremely frustrated. We just need someone to hear us and help us fight for what is right and fair.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Neighbors are opposed to a 32-unit housing development at 80 Blackstrap Road in Falmouth that would include 16 duplexes.