West Falmouth eyed for 152 new homes

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FALMOUTH — The town will get its first look Thursday at a contract zone proposal that would allow 152 new residences in West Falmouth.

The project will be considered when the Community Development Committee meets at 8:30 a.m. May 25.

The development would include nearly 42 acres under contract to David Chase, for what is known locally as the Hothem parcel, along with another parcel of just over 27 acres owned by Town Councilor Andrea Ferrante and her husband Matthew, of Turning Point Development.

Ferrante said this week she would recuse herself from any discussion or vote on the contract zone, which, according to Chase, would not require many changes to the current village mixed use zone in that part of town.

Chase said he’s seeking a contract zone for the project, which would be developed in phases over several years, because he feels it’s the best way to expedite the approval process.

“I’m not looking for too much,” Chase said this week, “just some front and side setback reductions, and smaller lot-size requirements.”

The goal is to create clustered, tight-knit neighborhoods connected by sidewalks and interior roadways that would also include shared public open space and some conserved natural areas.

The project would abut Mountain and Gray roads, Chase said, with entrances off Gray Road and at least one off Mountain Road. The goal would be to also allow some commercial development along the road frontage.

The parcels within the contract zone may also end up including the Long Creek Realty Trust property, and perhaps a land swap or outright purchase of the West Falmouth Baptist Church lot, according to the application for the project.

The proposed homes would be a mix of single-family, duplexes and apartment buildings, with one- and two-bedroom units, according to Chase. Affordable and market-rate units would be offered.

Under the town’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan update, the future vision for West Falmouth includes “well-planned residential development” that would be integrated into the existing commercial areas, the contract zone application states.

Chase said he believes his project “fits the vision for what’s intended,” under both the Comprehensive Plan and the newly developed West Falmouth Neighborhood Sketch Plan, which is under review.

The neighborhood plan for West Falmouth calls for walkability, interconnectivity, mixed uses and concentrated development, particularly as a tool for open space preservation elsewhere in town, according to the draft proposal.

Chase is a well-known local developer, but said this would be his first contract zone proposal in Falmouth.

Going before the Community Development Committee, which consists of Councilors Caleb Hemphill, Claudia King and Ned Kitchel, is just the first step in a lengthy approval process.

Still, Chase said he hopes to get final subdivision approval within a year.

Both Chase and Ferrante said the contract zone proposal is still a work in progress and there’s much to be finalized, including the exact nature of their partnership and whether each would only develop their own lots.

“Partnering with Dave is a possibility that we believe allows for connectivity, shared vision and more unified flow to the whole project,” Ferrante said. “… We do not have (all) the answers worked out yet. We are discussing options and giving careful consideration to many different factors.”

Prior to partnering with Chase and seeking joint contract zone approval from the town, Ferrante said she and her husband initially went through preliminary review several years ago for a 28-unit development in West Falmouth.

Ferrante said they believe there is a need for lower priced and more diverse housing, and the businesses they would like to attract typically want street frontage, so having homes built behind the commercial buildings “seems like a win-win.”

“We have always hoped for a local neighborhood feel,” she added, “where you can stop at a local market, grab a pizza or a sandwich, or meet friends for coffee, walk trails, bike (and) sit in a park.”

Ferrante said her interest in such development began before she became a town councilor. “I have a lot to add and share in the process as a landowner and native of Falmouth,”  she said.

Even so, she’s already stepped down from being the council liaison to the Route 100 Committee, which is planning a multimillion dollar upgrade to the roadway. The project was approved by voters in a town-wide referendum last fall.

The scope of Route 100 work includes traffic safety improvements at intersections, adding bicycle lanes from the Portland border to the Libby bridge, adding sidewalks and improving street lighting, among other elements.

Throughout the Route 100 planning and West Falmouth Neighborhood Sketch Plan process, Ferrante said, “I have not asked for anything personally. The process wasn’t about my land; it was about the whole area.”

Under the ordinance governing contract zones in Falmouth, the developer must show the project is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan; proposed uses are consistent with the existing zoning, and that the development would provide a public benefit that would not exist otherwise.

In addition to initial concept review by the Community Development Committee, any contract zone must also go through Town Council and Planning Board public hearings, as well as sketch plan review.

In comments about Chase’s contract zone proposal made in passing at Monday’s Town Council meeting, Kitchel said the process is “a meaningful way for the town to engage in a project of this magnitude.”

In the end, he said, “I think we will end up with a really good project that will benefit all stakeholders.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Developers David Chase and Matthew and Andrea Ferrante are proposing a contract zone for off Mountain and Gray roads in West Falmouth. The project calls for 152 new residences.