FALMOUTH — A group of West Falmouth residents agreed Monday that having an overall development plan for a large swath of their neighborhood could have some benefits, as long as special attention is paid to traffic and density.
“There was a lot of detail to digest, but I think we had a mindful and thoughtful discussion, and that the majority felt it was better to have a plan than no plan,” Town Manager Nathan Poore said after the meeting of the Community Development Committee.
Earlier, committee members also showed support for a proposed contract zone that would allow construction of more than 70 new apartments at Foreside Estates – including some affordable housing – in exchange for a new town-built access road off Clearwater Drive.
Poore and Theo Holtwijk, the long range planning director, have been working for the past several months to determine if there are possibilities for coordinated, phased development in West Falmouth of an 80-acre parcel between Mountain and Leighton roads, with frontage on Route 100.
On Monday the Community Development Committee, which includes Councilors Claudia King, Caleb Hemphill and Nate Kitchel, introduced what Holtwijk has called “a neighborhood sketch plan.”
Right now the proposal is “just a concept plan,” Poore said, but the idea would be for the Town Council to eventually determine whether it wants to encourage a planned neighborhood in West Falmouth, either through amendments to the Village Mixed Use zone, or through contract zoning.
The overall question, Holtwijk said Monday, is whether “a neighborhood design could better shape this growth area” of town. And, if so, are town leaders, residents and developers interested in pursuing the creation of such planned development.
Such directed development, Holtwijk said, would “create a sense of place,” with a focus on allowing increased density, a variety of mixed uses, and a variety of housing types – from row houses and apartments to more traditional single-family homes – on smaller lots.
A planned neighborhood would also focus on connectivity and walkability, with easy access to a variety of open spaces ranging from village greens to mostly undeveloped parcels.
In introducing the possibility of planned development in West Falmouth, King, the committee chairwoman, said the goal is for the neighborhood to become “a hub of activity,” as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan.
Holtwijk added that the discussion over the past several months has been, “Can we guide and encourage change with zoning rules and public investment? Maybe we can come up with something interesting.”
Mark Debowski, a project manager with Stantec, the firm designing the Route 100 reconstruction project, said the goal with the planned neighborhood would be “to provide a vision for what can happen.”
He called this type of planned development a “unique opportunity,” but admitted it would call for “more dense (development) than is typical for Falmouth.”
Following Monday’s meeting, Poore said the next steps are still to be determined, including whether the Community Development Committee wants to do more work before presenting the planned neighborhood concept to the full council.
“All of the next steps will be fully communicated, so everyone will be kept in the loop,” he said.
Earlier Monday, the Community Development Committee also held a workshop on a proposal by Princeton Properties, which owns and operates the 170-unit Foreside Estates complex on Clearwater Drive, to add 72 more units under a contract zone.
The proposal is to construct three new buildings, with 24 units each, which would include one- and two-bedroom units. Most would be rented at the market rate, but four of the one-bedroom units would be set aside as affordable.
What the Community Development Committee must decide before Princeton Properties moves forward is whether the town would be willing to pay most of the cost for a new, secondary access road into Foreside Estates and whether the town wants to push for the affordable units to be permanently affordable, according to Poore.
“The developer needs some sense about where the council may land before they spend time and money,” he said.
The committee seemed to agree it would be in the town’s best interests to pay a good part of the $670,000 it’s anticipated would be needed to construct a new road from Clearwater Drive to Waterview Way, which would then connect to U.S. Route 1.
While Princeton Properties would be willing to pay some of the costs, Poore said the company made it clear the new road would have to be “a town-built, public road.”
In terms of the affordability issue, Kitchel said there’s “only going to be more and more people in need of lower cost housing” in town. And, Hemphill added, “it’s reasonable to request or expect the developer to expand the number of affordable housing units.”
Poore said he may bring both issues to the full council for discussion Feb. 13.
The potential full build-out for an 80-acre planned neighborhood in West Falmouth that the town is considering.