FALMOUTH — A local business owner and chairman of the Yarmouth Town Council said the Falmouth Town Council “should be ashamed” after councilors reprimanded him at Monday’s meeting.
Steve Woods, who is also an independent candidate to replace U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, said councilors’ comments were “egregious” during their discussion over his business’ compliance with the Falmouth sign ordnance.
“Their comments almost sounded hostile; I was completely caught off guard,” said Woods, who owns TideSmart Global, a marketing company whose headquarters on Route 1 host the contentious sign. “I was sent a notice of the meeting and then I found out the next day, instead of deliberating the ordinance, the councilors took 40 minutes to disparage me, and by extenstion, my campaign.”
Woods said he did not attend the meeting because he thought the issue was minor and saw no reason he would have to attend.
According to the council agenda, the councilors were debating the “introduction of an amendment to the Zoning and Site Plan Review Ordinance to revise the requirements for Property Identification Sign.” The amendment would make “minor changes to the current language to accommodate this property.”
The councilors’ issue with the TideSmart sign is that size of the accent lettering for the word “Global,” which is underneath the TideSmart logo on the sign, is one inch too small.
At the meeting, Councilor Chris Orestis said he wanted to impose a punitive fine and “hurt” Woods to send a message that he must respect town laws.
Councilors eventually referred action on a fine against TideSmart to Town Hall staff.
In other business, the question of population and property density along the Route 1 corridor also created some debate at Monday night’s Town Council meeting.
“In order to have a strong retail, pedestrian-oriented district you really need to have both density in terms of driving population and walking population that can frequent the retail district that’s being envisioned,” Councilor Tony Payne said. “Falmouth by zoning does not have that, it has not had that and it’s unlikely to have that.”
Payne said he is “kind of hanging out there on my own at the moment,” because the rest of the council supports the majority of changes proposed for the corridor.
“I think everyone shares a vision, as do I, of having a pedestrian-friendly, robust retail district,” Payne said Tuesday. “It is a great thing to think about, but unless you have the underlying populations that create to conditions that make that possible, you have to ask yourself do you want to make the substantial investments that would bring that into fruition without the population support.”
Councilors Chris Orestis and Teresa Pierce said the village setting the Community Development Committee and some councilors envision is not necessarily dependent on residents’ ability to walk. A similar community feel could be created even if people have to drive, they said.
“When you talk to people in our community, they’re dying to shop and dine and be in this community; they’d love to have the option first to stay in Falmouth,” said Orestis. “People are focused in, targeted on staying local.”
Pierce said that the plan should be focused on what the town could look like 20 years from now and starting to move toward that direction.
“I think if you build infrastructure that gives people the opportunity to walk there, ride their bike there or maybe even drive there I think that there’s opportunity here,” she said.
The proposed $5.5 million infrastructure restructuring would include a landscaped center median, wider sidewalks, cross walks, trees and could bring – if zoning changes are approved – businesses closer to the road. These changes would not increase tax rates for residents, because money has already been approved through tax increment financing.
The council asked the CDC to look further into the possibility of creating four-foot bike lanes along the road, which would add $1.5 million to project costs.
Voters will have the opportunity to vote on the infrastructure changes next June, if all goes according to plan.
But before any work can move forward on the actual road corridor, the council must consider two other factors.
A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 24 to hear from residents about restricting building footprints to 30,000 square feet. Councilors will ultimately have the final say after the public hearing.
Another issue to be decided has to do with zoning; a topic that has been debated for many years and could allow for higher buildings and moving buildings closer to the street.
“The general theme is allowing the business district to become denser,” the CDC chairwoman, Councilor Bonny Rodden, said.
Payne said he believes residents are going to be divided about the plan, and that some have already voiced their excitement, but others are concerned. He also said that while he doesn’t necessarily think that the village option will work, he does think that something should be done.
“It’s not that I don’t think nothing should be done, I just want to have a really clear discussion so that we have really thought through this decision,” he said. “I would love to see that kind of a vigorous retail district, but I just have a hard time when I’m confronted with the facts.”