Parking, traffic still problematic for Falmouth restaurant proposal

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FALMOUTH — The Planning Board took no action Tuesday night on the latest application for a proposed restaurant and sports bar off Clearwater Drive.

The board had scheduled a site plan review on the proposal by Portland-based Rivalries for Tidewater Village parcel behind Wal-Mart.

But members decided not to vote on the application and instead allow the applicant to address continuing questions about parking and traffic.

The board had originally been scheduled to meet Sept. 1, but that meeting was canceled due to a lack of quorum. It was rescheduled for Sept. 8; Rivalries had the option of appearing Tuesday, or waiting until the board’s October meeting.

The debate over the restaurant’s expansion into Falmouth began last December, when a proposal went before the Town Council and almost immediately generated backlash from residents in Tidewater Farm, an adjacent mixed-use neighborhood. Since then it has appeared before the council and Planning Board several times, receiving opposition from some neighbors and support from some other residents at almost every instance.

Parking and traffic have been consistent concerns. The applicants had studies done on both issues, and also received a Maine Department of Transportation traffic permit.

The parking study indicated 25 on-site parking spaces will be provided; 20 additional leased spots will be in an adjacent lot in Tidewater Village, with 20 more shared spots in another lot.

An updated version of the study also said up to 35 public parking spots could be used on the north side of Clearwater Drive, with 25 parallel spots on the south side, and seven spaces on Hat Trick Drive. The proposal also includes nine parking spots on Farm Gate Road.

The study said the restaurant would have 45 fully controlled spaces, and an additional 76 shared public and private spaces before 5 p.m. That number would increase to 96 after 5 p.m., when nearby businesses would be closed and no longer require parking.

Because the plan calls for 125 seats inside, only 53 parking spots were required.

An additional 32 seats for seasonal, outdoor service are also in the application. However, these seats did not have to be factored in to the parking demand calculations because they are not always available, according to Ethan Croce, the town’s senior planner.

The board had concerns about whether there would be sufficient identification of the off-site parking spots, and wanted the applicants to address this before returning for the site plan review. Additionally, board members expressed interest about eliminating the parking on Farm Gate Road.

“I would be inclined to getting rid of the nine spaces,” board member Thomas McKeon said, although he added he wouldn’t vote against the plan if certain conditions were met, including adequate signage. That sentiment was echoed by other board members.

Board Chairman Jay Chace said he was generally in favor of the nine spots on Farm Gate Road, but also wants to respect the neighborhood opposition.

Dozens of people turned out and a handful spoke against the development. Most expressed opposition to parking on Farm Gate.

Janet Hutcheson of Farm Gate Road said the nine parking spaces there would detract from the area, and people would park there before using the other spots on Clearwater Drive.

“People will park the shortest distance to where they’re going,” she said.

Clifford Gilpin, president of the Tidewater Farm Homeowners Association, said although the spots on Farm Gate are public, their orientation would make it seem as if they were solely for use by Rivalries.

“It’s not desirable to encourage this kind of parking on Farm Gate Road,” Gilpin said.

Chace said given all the parking needs, he wondered if it might be prudent to establish a site plan for parking in that area, given more business development is likely in the future.

“We’re putting a lot of faith in shared parking,” Chace said, noting the proposal is “picking away” at future parking spaces for other developments.

Falmouth resident Tommy Johnson suggested that, given the redevelopment of Route 1 into a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly area, some customers of the restaurant likely wouldn’t require parking.

Lance Meader, owner of Rivalries, said the nine spots on Farm Gate Road are “strongly recommended” by the professionals who did the study, and echoed Johnson’s comments about walk-in customers.

Meader also tried to allay concerns over late-night traffic, lights, and noise coming from the restaurant. He said his restaurant at 10 Cotton St. in Portland stops serving food at 11 p.m., and the Falmouth location would finish earlier.

“I don’t think we’re changing the world in Falmouth,” Meader said.

The proposal for the restaurant has changed since it was introduced last December.

The application was originally for a two-story building with an 11,400-square-foot footprint to accommodate about 200 seats. That was later reduced to less than 8,000 square feet. The plan now is for a single-story building, with a footprint of 4,600 square feet.

If it is approved by the Planning Board, the plan will return to the Town Council for a decision about access to Hat Trick Drive, a town-owned road. Councilors in the past have generally expressed support for the project.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

The site of the proposed Rivalries sports bar and restaurant at the corner of Clearwater Drive and Farm Gate Road in Falmouth.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or
  • Bowdoin81

    Just so funny.
    Falmouth falls for the New Urbanism planning utopia, installs a human scale mixed use neighborhood, and now can’t find a way to allow a new neighborhood restaurant and bar there.
    Why is all that parking necessary when Route One is now a walkable boulevard?
    Aren’t people going to walk to Rivalries from … Depot Road? Or they’ll leave their cars at Wal Mart after buying their new socks and underwear, and walk to the restaurant.Yes, that’s it.

    • Peter

      Making route one walkable doesn’t make people walk on route one.