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FALMOUTH — Objections at Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting to a proposed 68-unit condominium development off Mountain Road included concerns about density, environmental impact and traffic.
The Planning Board ended up tabling the project, proposed by developer David Chase, because the application was incomplete. It did, however, request a site walk of the property.
When Chase comes back before the board, members said, they want to see a master plan, an updated traffic study and more attention paid to the requirements of the Village Mixed Use zone, which emphasizes commercial over residential development.
Chase’s condo project would be built on a nearly 45-acre property at 4 Mountain Road, according to materials submitted to the Planning Board prior to Tuesday’s meeting.
This is some of the same land Chase previously hoped to develop under a contract zone that called for up to 151 new residential units.
Opposition to that proposal, which was first brought to the town for review in 2017, caused Chase to withdraw the application nearly a year later. Now he’s proposing the new, downsized development.
The Planning Board has weighed in on the condo project twice before. Once in August 2018 and then again in December, and members have consistently urged Chase to bring them a plan with less residential and more commercial development.
However, since the board’s initial review last summer, Chase has added three more residential units to the proposed project, increasing the total requested from 65 to 68.
Matthew Ek of Sebago Technics, who is overseeing the project, said this week that about 26 acres would be needed for the housing development and the remainder would be open space.
The project application also shows Chase would like to fill in more than 10,000 square feet of wetland, including what some residents Tuesday said is a historic and valued former farm pond.
Ek said because of the wetland issue the project requires a permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. That process is already underway and on March 22 Chase held a neighborhood meeting, as required by the DEP.
Unlike the prior contract zone request, Chase is not seeking waivers of any zoning rules. But he is requesting a waiver of the town’s sight-line requirements for the development’s exit onto Mountain Road.
Ek on Tuesday said the sight distance would meet the standards set by the Maine Department of Transportation, but not Falmouth’s local standards.
In opposing the condo project, resident Steve Dyer said it does “a disservice to the environment,” not only because of the plan to fill in wetlands, but because of the project’s overall impact on the already impaired East Branch of the Piscataqua River.
Dyer also questioned the traffic data, which hasn’t been updated since 2014, and said congestion at the intersection of Mountain Road and Route 100 is “clearly the worst in West Falmouth.”
He then argued that the project would only “dump a massive number of people into a dense area.”
Resident Keith Noyes called the plan an “environmental disaster,” saying the property is home to many threatened and vulnerable species, including the New England cottontail rabbit.
“I don’t know why you’re even pushing this forward. The townspeople have said they don’t want this type of building going on,” Noyes added.
Todd Kelly accused Chase of trying to “get around the rules” that apply to normal single-family subdivisions.
Town Planner Dawn Emerson said that because the project is being proposed as a residential planned development on one lot, Chase does not have to comply with several typical subdivision regulations, including frontage setbacks.
Summing up the feeling in the room Tuesday, resident Mary O’Brien said “I have a lot of concerns about this project. It’s way too big and I’m very worried about the environmental impact. This (amount of) density is very inappropriate.”