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Pitch to Falmouth council evokes memories of Question 1

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Pitch to Falmouth council evokes memories of Question 1

FALMOUTH — Most town councilors and many residents were leery Monday of a public-private cost-sharing plan proposed by OceanView Retirement Community.

The proposal, ultimately defeated 4-3 by the council, would have had OceanView and the town share the cost of feasibility studies exploring the possibility of redevelopment at the Plummer-Motz and Lunt School complexes.

Even though the plan is packaged differently, several residents said it just rehashes last year's Question 1.

“This seems to be a not-so-subtle attempt at 'Hey, referendum do-over,'” resident Bill Gardner said. “The public spoke last June and said we don't want to spend money in these times on our wants; we want to focus on our needs.”

OceanView asked the council to approve the town picking up around $36,000 of the costs associated with exploring the possibility of moving Falmouth Memorial Library and creating a community center in the old Plummer-Motz and Lunt schools.

The proposed plan has OceanView taking on 100 percent of the costs associated with the library. Under the plan, the town and OceanView would split the costs of surveying, engineering and architecture for a potential community center. OceanView will also take on the responsibility of looking at fundraising possibilities for a community pool.

“We are very interested in the library and community center because it benefits our business,” Matt Teare, OceanView's director of development, said. “We want to build a strong community at OceanView and be a part of a strong community in Falmouth.”

Councilor Tony Payne asked his colleagues to consider placement of a library and community center from a comprehensive planning standpoint.

“If you had to take a look at the land that is currently occupied by the library, that is one of the prime pieces of land (in town),” he said. “I feel strongly that the library is a key component, if not the nexus, of much of our village activity and to begin to move that away is, I think, to compromise what is in the best interest of the town.”

Payne said he thought the town would own the Plummer-Motz facility for five years, while it explored the possibility of what a community center could look like and where it could go.

While members of the public overwhelmingly decried the proposal, Councilor Chris Orestis urged the council to look at the proposal as a business opportunity for the town.

“The amount of money being asked of us is not inordinate and it would be good business practice working with our business partner to do it,” he said.

Councilor Bonny Rodden agreed, saying that current space acting as the community center is not serving its purpose well and that spending the money to look into a new space for the community center and library would be a good idea.

“In the scheme of things, spending $36,000 to find out whether or not this is feasible or not, I think this makes good sense,” Rodden said.

Orestis, who with Rodden and Chairwoman Teresa Pierce voted in the minority, said the decision was influenced by politics.

“We had an opportunity to show that we know how to run our town like a business and be a good business partner with OceanView, but tonight we allowed that process to get hijacked by political ideology,” he said. “That was a real shame for the town and for what we are trying to accomplish in the long term with OceanView.”

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 114. Follow her on Twitter: @croninamber.