Opposition persists to West Falmouth development, contract zone

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FALMOUTH — Although the majority of speakers at a public hearing last week were against a proposed contract zone in West Falmouth, Council Chairman Caleb Hemphill said he’s confident the concerns being raised can be addressed and the project can move forward.

Developers David Chase and Town Councilor Andrea Ferrante and her husband, Matthew, are proposing 151 new housing units on a 52-acre parcel bounded by the Maine Turnpike, Route 100 and Mountain Road.

The project, which would be phased in over several years, consists of 48 apartments, 103 single-family homes and a 6,000-square-foot commercial building.

There would also be three neighborhood parks, one of which would be turned over to the town for public use. Walking trails and sidewalks would also be added.

To receive a contract zone, the developers must show the project complies with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and current zoning, and there has to be a public benefit that would otherwise not be available.

Even though at every opportunity for public comment so far residents have argued against the proposal, the contract zone has already received tacit approval from the Planning Board, the Long-Range Planning Advisory Committee and the Community Development Committee.

In talking about the project at the Oct. 11 public hearing, Hemphill said it meets the town’s goals of adding “desirable housing types” and creating a village or neighborhood feel in West Falmouth.

He also said the council has “already decided that Route 100 should be a growth area” and that the developers have “afforded a lot of respect for the interests of the town with this project.”

However, residents continued to raise concerns about increased traffic, increased school enrollment, the developers’ request to be exempted from the growth cap in the first phase, and other requests for variances from the existing zoning rules.

Resident David Murdoch referred to the contract zone proposal as a “cluster bomb of houses” that would ruin West Falmouth and said “it’s a mystery to me why (it was) even brought forward.”

Murdoch said his concerns include light pollution, noise and increased traffic.

“This explosion of homes in our beautiful mountain home is not my idea of what a village should be,” he added. “If this abomination is allowed to take place, (West Falmouth) will look like Route 1.”

Another resident, John Winslow, said before the council allows such a big project it should conduct impact studies on how it would affect town services.

“We should (only allow) sustainable growth,” Winslow said. “What will be the unintended consequences of this high density project? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

Winslow also argued that under the current Village Mixed Use zone the developers could already do much of what they’re proposing.

Steve Dyer also spoke against the contract zone and said it “is not smart planning or smart growth.”

Ferrante, who recused herself from the council discussion last week, spoke from the floor in defense of the contract zone and argued it’s just what she has always envisioned for West Falmouth.

“This location, this timing, the people putting it together, it’s all a win” Ferrante said.

But Scott Walker, who said he’s not against growth per se, called the project “a massive Goliath” and said the town should stick with the current zoning of the property to ensure “a fair playing field in terms of development.”

The council is set to hold a workshop session on the contract zone Nov. 13, which would be followed by another public hearing, according to Town Manager Nathan Poore.

This story has been updated to correctly attribute a quote.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

A 151-unit housing project is being proposed for West Falmouth. It would be bound by Route 100 and the south side of Mountain Road.

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