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Falmouth council removes some zoning red tape

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Falmouth council removes some zoning red tape

FALMOUTH — The Town Council unanimously approved a zoning amendment Monday night that allows staff to approve minor site improvements to commercial properties.

Councilors also heard a presentation about the Comprehensive Plan and approved the annual council work plan.

The amendment, brought to the council by a business owner, gives staff the authority to approve commercial property site improvements, such as additions to landscaping, limited increases in impervious surfaces and accessory structures that do not exceed 500 gross square feet.

Previously, the minor site improvements were required to go through the Planning Board.

"This essentially shifts some of the responsibilities for minor site improvements from the Planning Board to staff so things can move quicker for those involved in the process," Chairwoman Teresa Pierce said.

After the first council reading on the amendment, the amount of impervious surfaces needed to trigger Planning Board review was raised from 2,000 square feet to 4,000 square feet.

Community Development Director Amanda Stearns said the impervious surface change is consistent with other towns' ordinances.

The amendment will be reviewed in three years to determine its effectiveness.

In addition to the zoning amendment, Sam Rudman, chairman of the long-range planning committee, presented the final draft of the town's 10-year Comprehensive Plan.

The plan provides 70 recommendations on a range of issues, from how to bolster economic development to encouraging a robust trail network.

The plan, which is the product of more than three years of work and 70 meetings by the committee, follows three themes: developing an economic hub, conservation, and creating diverse residential opportunities.

And while the plan contains recommendations drawn from public input, Rudman said, the plan is intended to reflect the community and inform the long-term planning of the council.

"This plan is a living, breathing document," he said, noting that different conditions could alter the plan in the future. "It's not written in stone. This is something that has to be viewed in whatever happens five years down the road."

Falmouth's last Comp Plan was in 2000.

Theo Holtwijk, the town's long-range planning director, said while some of the goals have changed since the last plan, mostly because of housing market conditions, the town has implemented about two-thirds of the previous plan.

The council is expected to host a special meeting in September to focus specifically on the plan.

The council's annual work plan focuses on three main categories: long-range planning, project implementation, and on-going business, governance and civic engagement.

The long-range planning piece includes the Comp Plan, Route 100 planning, expansion of Falmouth Memorial Library and the status of the former Mason Motz school building, among other items.

Redevelopment of Route 1, expansion of natural gas service and the administrative zoning rewrite are all part of the project implementation work plan.

The council also plans to develop a conflict-of-interest policy or ordinance, review the tax credit program, and plan for Falmouth's 300th anniversary.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.