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Compromise on Falmouth business limits as vote looms

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Compromise on Falmouth business limits as vote looms

FALMOUTH — With members of the business community watching, town councilors last week sought middle ground on a proposed building footprint ordinance for the district along Route 1.

Councilors in a workshop agreed that 50,000 square feet is an adequate limit for new construction, but had more discussion about the reconfiguration of existing nonconforming tenant spaces.

Attorney Mary Costigan presented a proposal to the council that would allow existing nonconforming tenant spaces to be “squared off” to 80,000 square feet. Councilor Sean Mahoney presented his own proposal, which would give existing nonconforming tenants the flexibility to move up to 60,000 square feet.

Most of the councilors said they felt Costigan's suggestion was too liberal. They ultimately agreed that Mahoney’s proposal is a more viable option.

“I could go with the 60,000 square feet because that is 10,000 more rental space, which gives this particular developer more space,” Councilor Tony Payne said. “I’m comfortable with Sean’s proposal, and its not a decision that’s new and needs to be vetted even more than in a couple of minutes when we make a decision.”

Councilor Bonny Rodden, who has been a stalwart proponent of small footprints since the council began its discussions, also backed the Mahoney proposal, adding that the only existing nonconforming space that would fit this is the old Shaw’s building at 52,000 square feet.

“For 8,000 square feet, I can go along with it,” she said.

Discussion also centered on working with smaller committees as the process of re-envisioning Route 1 moves forward, an idea brought to the council in an open letter written by attorney Jonathan Berry.

In the letter, Berry asserted that councilors have not been open to discussion throughout the process of creating the footprint limit and that as work on the Route 1 area continues, there should be more communication.

“I think it is a very good idea to meet with a group that is interested in anything the council is working on,” Town Manager Nathan Poore advised.

He added that this committee, which would include business community members, councilors, town staff and other interested parties, should work to create a road map for the continuation of work on the Route 1 business district.

“I think the end result (should be) trying to get to the pivotal policy decision on these things so that we’re not brainstorming at committee and council level meetings,” Poore said. “We have a lot of talented staff and a lot of talented people in the business community. With some council interaction at a lighter level, asking the right questions, then we can make it ripe for some policy discussion.”

The group, members of which were not determined at the meeting, will begin meeting soon and present options for Route 1 improvements to the council at its meetings in early January.

The council will vote on the proposed footprint amendment at its meeting on Monday, Nov. 26.

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.