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Small turnout for added Route 1 discussion in Falmouth

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Small turnout for added Route 1 discussion in Falmouth

FALMOUTH — A second public forum on changes along U.S. Route 1 was not as well attended as the first, which was held during a snow storm.

Because of the storm on Feb. 27, the Community Development Committee scheduled a second opportunity for the public to provide input, during the Town Council meeting Monday night.

The meeting drew a crowd of six.

The tiny turnout notwithstanding, Councilor Bonny Rodden said the plan has continued to evolve by including the input of concerned business owners and residents.

“This plan has changed quite a bit from the first plan because we have been talking to business owners,” she said. “(There has been) at least one case where a business owner liked some of these ideas, closing curb cuts or adding curb cuts, and they suggested adding their own.”

Members of the CDC repeatedly stressed that no new taxes will result from the infrastructure improvements.

Councilor Tony Payne said the town has been collecting taxes from businesses in the Route 1 business district since 2000 as part of a tax increment financing (TIF) plan.

Councilor Theresa Pierce presented proposed zoning changes that will be voted on by the Council in March.

“While you don’t have to do (the projects) at exactly the same time," she said, "in order to realize the vision a bit, we are working on them at the same time.”

The goal, Pierce said, is to marry 1983, 1999 and current zoning overhauls into a smaller, “user-friendly” document that spells out goals such as increased density and mixed use, adding residential components, increasing property values and simplifying ordinances and design guidelines.

The zoning amendments would also create a more village-like character.

“Village Center 1” will run between Fundy Road and Bucknam Road, while “Village Center 2” will be from the Route 88 intersection to Fundy Road.

Russ Anderson, a former Town Council candidate, was the only member of the public to address the council. He said he has gradually warmed up to the project.

“It is incumbent upon us to look toward the future and beautify the town,” Anderson said.

During the meeting the council also discussed updating the bicycle and pedestrian plan with the help of a $35,000 grant from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System.

But not all of the councilors supported the suggestion.

“Looking at the scope of work, it feels as though it is money in search of work," Payne said. "My question is, don’t we have the capacity within our staff to get this work done without having to go out and get this done?”

The grant would fund an outside staffer to do the research behind a new bicycle and pedestrian plan that would be used by the town’s Public Works Department.

Town Manager Nathan Poore said that with all of the work that has to be done on the Route 1 infrastructure and zoning plan, staff time will be limited for other projects like the bicycle and pedestrian plan update.

The council ultimately voted in favor of applying for the grant by a vote of 5-1, with Payne opposed. Councilor Chris Orestis was absent.

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