Vacant Foreside property back on Falmouth council's radar

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council renewed an approximately 6-year-old discussion about what to do with town-owned property abutting Underwood Park.

The council on Monday also discussed yet another six-month extension for the Tidewater Master Development Plan, to October 2016, with minimal discussion.

The Underwood Park property on Foreside Road (Route 88) is approximately 3.3 acres, purchased by the town in 2007. It was a private residence and has been referred to in town documents as the former Brown property. 

“This property has a contentious past,” Council Chairman David Goldberg said at the Feb. 22 meeting, noting that it generated a lot of discussion in 2009. The original idea, he said, was to create more satellite parking for Town Landing, although that never came to be. The house was razed, and the property has remained vacant.

Goldberg said some early thinking about the property, since it had already been approved for a building, was it could be redeveloped for residential purposes. But he said that could take many forms. The lot is very long, so some portion could be used as open space, he said, while the remainder could be sold for development.

According to town documents, following meetings in 2009 and 2010, the town decided to leave the property as is and revisit it at another time.

Councilors on Monday agreed the public should be involved in the discussion. After some discussion about how the town should continue the conversation in the meantime, councilors were in favor of appointing three councilors to a committee at their next meeting, March 14; no action was taken Monday night.

Goldberg said he sees three broad options for the land: do nothing and leaving the parcel as it is, make it officially part of Underwood Park, or improve the property and ultimately sell some or all of it.

Goldberg said the last choice presents many options for what to do with proceeds from a sale. One example, he said, is replenishing the now-empty Parks Land Capital Fund, which was drained to help Falmouth Land Trust purchase the West Falmouth property commonly known as Hurricane Valley Farm.

While Councilor Karen Farber wanted to put the discussion on the council’s annual July work plan, Goldberg said he didn’t want the town to “miss the market” if they ultimately decide to sell the property.

Councilors did not seem interested in turning the lot into more satellite parking. Farber said that idea is “off the table,” since there doesn’t seem to be neighborhood interest.

Tidewater extension

The Tidewater Master Development Plan has been extended several times over the past few years to allow the developers, Bateman Partners LLC (under the name Tidewater LLC for this project) to finish the project.

In October, Councilor Caleb Hemphill, who serves on a Tidewater advisory subcommittee, said he was concerned the developers were not moving fast enough. The extension was granted, and the developers remained committed to the project.

The original master plan was for 10 years and expired in March 2015. The developers initially asked for another 10-year plan, but councilors allowed a six-month extension, to expire last October. The developers did not submit the necessary documents in time, and were granted a second extension, set to expire in April.

Farber said requested materials from the developers for staff review came very late in the process and needed more information. She said the result is more time is needed.

“It’s disappointing we’re here, but it’s in the town’s best interest to keep moving forward,” she said.

Hemphill said everyone involved wants to see the master plan fully developed, and they are still optimistic it will happen.

Staff are expected to review the documents they have received from developers this week or next. Councilors set a public hearing for March 28.

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

The Falmouth Town Council is again discussingwhat to do with vacant property abutting Underwood Park on Foreside Road.

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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 cellis@theforecaster.net.