Details remain as Falmouth council OKs sale of school properties
FALMOUTH — Town councilors Monday unanimously approved a plan to sell most of the Plummer-Motz and Lunt school properties to the OceanView retirement community for $3.25 million.
But several hurdles remain before the town and OceanView can close the deal.
Councilors could not reach consensus on whether to set aside $2 million from the sale for a community center, so they removed that item from consideration. The council will likely reconsider the issue before the end of the year, which is the deadline for the town to close the deal with OceanView.
Monday's special meeting came after weeks of negotiations between town staff, councilors and the developer and a Jan. 23 public hearing, where many residents expressed their support for the sale, but questioned reserving money for the community center.
OceanView has given the town a $50,000 deposit, but before the rest of the money changes hands, both the town and the developer must resolve outstanding issues, like amending zoning and obtaining land-use approvals from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Most importantly, the town must work with the National Park Service to remove a use restriction placed on the property in 1981, when Falmouth accepted a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant that restricted all future development on the site and limited future use to public outdoor recreation.
Town staff were unable to begin that process until the council formally accepted the OceanView offer, according to Theo Holtwijk, the town's director of long-range planning.
Before the end of the year, Falmouth must transfer the use restrictions to another property in town of equal or greater value, a move that could involve buying land from a private party if no town-owned land is suitable.
Because the appraisal of the Plummer-Motz site hasn't been completed, no one knows exactly how much the town will have to spend to resolve the use restriction, Holtwijk said.
That uncertainty prompted Town Manager Nathan Poore to modify the OceanView agreement by capping the amount the town can spend at $1.5 million. If the cost of resolving the use restriction runs over that amount, the town has the option to either terminate the deal or waive the cap and proceed to closing.
Depending on how much the town is forced to spend, Falmouth will likely end up with about $1.8 million after closing the deal with OceanView.
That was an important fact for Councilor Bonny Rodden, who said she didn't want residents to walk away saying "'Oh, we have $3.25 million in our pocket,' because that's not the case."
Despite the large amount of work in front of them, councilors seemed pleased to be approving the deal and did so with little discussion. Chairwoman Teresa Pierce said she hopes to present a preliminary plan to the public on Feb. 13.