FALMOUTH — It’s getting down to “go or no-go” time for a contract zone proposal that could bring 151 new housing units to West Falmouth the Town Council said Monday.
The outstanding issues that still need to be resolved include what types of housing may receive an exemption from the town’s growth cap and how many units overall councilors are willing to allow the developer to build in any given year.
The next steps for the proposal include a public hearing at the April 3 Planning Board meeting and another before the Town Council April 9.
While councilors seem to be generally in favor of the contract zone, which would also include some commercial development, their biggest concern is the rate of growth, Councilors Karen Farber and Claudia King said this week.
David Chase, who is developing the project along with Town Councilor Andrea Ferrante and her husband Matthew, said Monday that in order to make the project viable, he would need to be able to build between 35 and 40 units a year.
The town’s current growth cap states that no more than 65 new single-family or two-family homes can be built in Falmouth annually, although there are various exemptions to that rule.
Monday it seemed important to councilors that Chase not be allowed to take all the growth permits available in any given year, which would allow for some development outside the contract zone.
The issue for some in town who oppose the project is the impact such a large number of new homes would have on municipal and school services. Of particular concern is a bump in school enrollment and additional traffic on Route 100.
In discussions around the contract zone so far, councilors seem in favor of allowing Chase exemptions from the growth cap for what they’re calling entry-level homes, or those around $280,000 in price, as well as for units that would be set aside for those 55 and older.
On Monday councilors said they want to incentivize Chase to build entry-level homes, which they feel will help diversify the available housing stock in Falmouth, but there was some question about whether they wanted to continue offering an exemption for the 55-plus housing.
In talking about whether the council wants to include a building cap for each phase of the contract zone, Farber said, “I’m just trying to get to a place where growth is controllable.”
Her goal, she said, is to develop “a structure that would keep us as close to the growth cap as possible,” both townwide and within the development itself. But Councilor Caleb Hemphill said Chase needs to be allowed a certain number of units per year to make the project work.
That comment, as well as several from Councilor Aaron Svedlow, led King to say that up til now, the discussion has been all about what the developer is willing to do. “It’s (now) time for us to push back and understand where our no-go is. We need to start saying where we stand on things.”
Although Svedlow and King disagreed on some items, they and Farber all seemed to agree that the goal should be to slow the rate of new units Chase is allowed to put up as a way to make the project more palatable to the community.
Other items discussed Monday included the possibility of imposing design standards on the development, particularly in terms of the architecture, and off-site improvements, including requiring that the developer pay for a left-hand turn lane that could be part of the upcoming Route 100 infrastructure project.