What do you think would be the ideal future residential landscape, that could create the best overall outcome for the community?
For more information about the Town of Falmouth Vision and Values project, please contact:
David Beurle, CEO
Phone: (612) 757-9190
Welcome to the Residential Development discussion board – we look forward to the community discussion!
Thank you for this opportunity for public input into long-range planning issues in our community. Having been involved in land use planning for four decades with much of my experience being in Falmouth as well as in other states, I think that your summaries of Falmouth’s past development, current conditions, and future trends are pretty accurate. I look forward to discussions of how to best manage our future growth.
Given that we seem to want more affordable housing, but also to keep the rural character of town and not drive up property taxes too much, perhaps we could focus on building more dense development along Rt. 1. Smaller one and two bedroom apartments would likely not expand the school-age population too much, but could help support current and new Rt. 1 businesses, creating more of the ‘downtown’ that many people also want. This could also help preserve the more rural parts of town and would be more inexpensive – infrastructure-wise – than new sub-divisions and streets that the town becomes responsible for.
This is a very good idea
I agree with you, Tom, that Route One might well offer smaller, affordable residences for renters or first time buyers. I would not want to preclude consideration of the rural parts of the town, however, for reasonably sized subdivisions that would fall into the “affordable” category. It appears to be almost impossible for first time homebuyers to find something to purchase in this town, and I would like to see Town management to put this issue very high on their list.
As with others who have commented on this, I, too, value open spaces. I also believe that the Town has been very successful in past years creating wonderful and abundant open spaces for recreational and environmental purposes and question how much emphasis needs to be put on that during the next 10 years.
Housing all residents ( including our children, teachers, public safety, etc. ) of Falmouth requires a plan that supports a range of housing types and intensity as well as a process that does not unduly burden the planning, permitting and building of housing. Agree with Mr. Ancona’s rationale the Route one corridor is one appropriate zone for higher intensity housing, and suggest there are a number of other appropriate zones for for a range of housing types across the town to be considered such as the west Falmouth Corner/Crossing area.
As a resident of Falmouth living in the Flats, my experience of Falmouth on a day-to-day basis is that it is not a rural town. I realize we are unique in feeling that in the Flats. Our proximity to Portland appeals to me as well as access to the shopping area on Rt 1. I agree that Rt 1 would be the logical place for projects with greater density. Homes, whether they be owned or rented, would have good access to the highway at Bucknam Rd and across the Martin’s Point Bridge.
I would like to echo the sentiment of a woman in one of the breakout groups last night that we should think about seniors or empty-nesters who would like to stay in Falmouth but downsize. That downsizing might mean a home that costs less to buy and to maintain and, potentially, close to town.
I struggle with understanding why larger developments are not appealing to folks in Falmouth. The community that often forms when people move into a neighborhood can be a great way to meet people and for neighbors to support neighbors. Kids may even find themselves playing outside with other kids. How nice would that be!
When data is available, it is best to use the data itself and not try to summarize results with terms like some or many. The answers to survey question 14 provide us with the true feelings of the Falmouth citizens unencumbered by the way the question was worded. A careful analysis of the first 325 out of 1300 responses to question 14, “Your vision for what Falmouth should be like in the next 10-20 years” reveals that only two citizens wanted the town growth rate and density to increase while 48 desired a rate slow down with low density and 71 wanted growth rate and density to stay as it is presently.
Similarly, responses 650-974 show that 54 respondents want the growth rate and density to be reduced while 90 would like to see it stay the same, and 17 wished for the town to speed up its growth rate and to increase the density. Results for the other 650 responses were similar. The bottom line is clear. 163 out of 650 respondents (40%) would prefer a Falmouth that kept its rural small town nature with slow carefully planned growth. Only 19 out of 650 respondents (less than 3 %) thought it important that Falmouth speed up growth and increase density! This data is available on the Vision and Values Portal and makes a fascinating read. Anyone who is truly concerned about where Falmouth should be headed needs to read that analysis. See Data Visualization-Community Survey #1-Community Insights-Question 14.
I am with those who think the rate of development is too fast and too concentrated. There is room for single, low-income housing, and 2-3 family dwellings, but not 15 or twenty or more at a time and not all in one area…. also, some may like the changes on route 1, but the 4 story plus buildings don’t look inviting to me — all I can see is what I see driving down Rt 1 in Saugus, Mass. How changes take place and the way in which their make can make a very big difference.
I agree with. your comments, Mr. Miller. The development that has taken place at Falmouth Corner/Gray Road looks quite stark in an area that was well treed and in keeping with the more rural area of West Falmouth. I would like to see the Rt. 1 corridor reserved for small housing units that blend in with the wooded areas along that road so that they appear to be more in keeping with neighborhoods as opposed to another stretch of housing that does not fit with small town living. There is so little affordable housing here for young families and beginning professionals. Unfortunately, this does not help with a more economically diverse town population.
There appear to be different interpretations of what ‘residential growth’ is and how to keep Falmouth’s rural nature, which does appear to be what most people want. The town currently sets a limit on new construction each year and, for the last few years, most of that new construction has gone to 1 or 2 family homes – mainly filling in empty wooded lots or in new subdivisions that take up wooded space or former agricultural land.
What do we define as rural? For me, that’s the mostly the areas of Falmouth west of RT 1 and RT 9. Those are the areas seeing the most ‘rural’ land taken for new development. The current strip malls, parking lots, and plazas of Rt. 1 wouldn’t fit under almost anyone’s definition of rural – they generally seem like a less attractive version of downtown Freeport.
Also, how do we ‘reduce’ density? To reduce density from what we already have, we’d need to either demolish people’s homes that already exist or focus whatever growth the town decides on new single-family housing which, as I stated above, would likely detract from the rural character of the town. The only solution I can see here if we don’t want to stop building entirely (could we legally even do that?), is to focus our growth on more dense housing where the infrastructure allows – this would be where we’ve already invested in that: along our two main corridors on Rt. 1 and Rt. 100.
The discussion around population growth has ignored the factors which created the growth. The establishment of 3 Country Clubs and Retirement communities created the majority of Falmouth growth. Country Club members built single family homes to be near their clubs and the Retirement Community establishments created multifamily residences. Growth should not be an objective but instead should be the result of thoughtful utilization of valuable land resources!
One of the additional factors around past growth has been the desire for parents to live in a community which provides their children with the best education and living environment. All future growth should be evaluated based on whether it will impact the ability of the Town to provide the best education possible to its’ children.
It is unrealistic to think that Falmouth can somehow bring about “lower cost housing” in the current economic environment. The Town needs to assume that a continued “high property tax” environment is necessary to maintain a strong educational system and to improve the quality of roads and infrastructure in the community.
In order to maintain the “rural nature” of Falmouth, single family housing seems to be the right strategy but the Town needs to be open to creative uses of land which could benefit Town citizens and land owners.
It is clear that defining our community Visions and Values to navigate our future is key, the data shows almost 500 people selected 10/10 that this is highly important. The discussion and data within the question of residential development is fascinating, and extensive, and a little more uneven, although I interpret the data as trending with happy current residences. A majority said keep (the growth) as it is going . This discussion board is here to define the best overall outcome for our future community. It’s got to be a balance to control growth, which should mean some density. That’s not a bad thing to me. I live in a (dense) neighborhood (the Flats) and I think it’s the best place in Falmouth. I would like to see more planned places with open space incorporated, housing units diverse, and safe/low traffic roads for kids to play and adults/seniors to walk. We have to be able to have teachers, and firefighters, and retail workers, etc be a part of our community. I think a mix of single family homes and condos or apartments, maybe similar to the Tidewater development area, is an example of what we can do to encourage diverse neighborhoods.
I am a big proponent of residential growth in Falmouth. Density and diversity of housing is a good thing especially for the lower/middle class workers that want to live in the town they work in. Single family dwellings, condos, apartments are all things we need in this town. Not 4,000 square foot houses. Being part of the fire department, I would love to buy a house in this town and continue to help the community. However , it’s nearly impossible with the way residential development is going in Falmouth now.
I support Mr. Burke’s perspective on the need for a range of housing types and price points.
We must also consider these two questions: Where will our well-educated children live? Where will our parents downsize and remain in Falmouth?
I agree with Brody Burke’s comment. Trying to create new “affordable” housing here in Falmouth will be difficult and we all want to retain our mixed rural/urban with open space character. Our community has realized great benefits from the open spaces we have acquired. We should continue to preserve these open spaces and continue to acquire more in balance with responsible growth. Large single family lots with large overbuilt houses should be limited and perhaps even be discouraged. Instead clustered developments and adding unique multi-unit development within already populated areas such as Route One and Route 100. Also, consider changing some zoning laws that would then allow further subdivision of existing already developed larger lots within some select denser developed zones. Advances in septic system treatment equipment can be relied upon to achieve further densification within already densely developed zones that otherwise have adequate water and power. In my opinion there are many opportunities to achieve these goals, provided we are willing to think outside the box.
I love the rural character of Falmouth like most people do, and it is very important to continue to provide the best education for our children. I moved to Falmouth for the schools when my kids were young. At the same time, it was just as important that I was as close as possible to Portland. There are many rural communities in Maine, but not too many that have all the advantages of living conveniently near a city like Portland with it’s wonderful restaurants, shops, businesses and the waterfront. At the same time, I think rural communities like ours share all of the advantages of Portland without sharing any of the costs. There is a real need in the greater Portland area for more affordable housing and I think Falmouth should share in providing some of that. It could be in whatever areas have denser housing which appears to be along Route 1 but could be other areas as well. Denser housing provides for more people, more affordable housing, and the least amount of land to develop.
When I was brand new to Falmouth, a mother of my daughter’s classmate that I’d just met on the Falmouth-Cumberland line informed me when I responded to her question of where did I live, “Oh. The poor side of the Foreside.” I was speechless.
So, I’m curious about where the “Route One corridor” begins and ends depth-wise, since OceanView looms and the railroad seems an (un)natural boundary. I’m not interested in more Tidewaters. Those huge houses are so close together. We already have more affordable apartments over here. Exactly what is the corridor people who don’t live near it’s impact areas are taking about.
It’s very clear we have traffic issues already on the main commuter roads. We already need stop lights or some kind of traffic control at plaza intersections even before the “twin towers” impacts.
The most recent development has not been well received. Its children have not been counted in the published enrollment for this school year.
I’m interested in working in a small group with people who understand the lingo and the options for a Route One development. It should not be left up to the Town, a committee and the developer. Neither should the developer endure what developers have had to endure here.
An ad hoc “neighborhood” committee working from “day one” w the developer and one or two “neighbors in the know” (e.g. J Thibodeau) could be the answer to Falmouth’s storied history of developments.
Trust is the most important element going forward. That can only happen face to face over time with everyone being up front and willing to work together to make it easier for the developer and not freak out the neighborhood with unwanted surprises. The “Town” would be the third most important cohort with the mindset of working on behalf of the tax paying neighborhood residents to come to a pleasing decision.
I strongly feel that a developer in Falmouth needs to work with an ad hoc neighborhood committee from day one to “get it right.”
Ground rules very important. Bottom line: neighborhood by neighborhood, Falmouth residents directly impacted should have input on what is happening with a development project from the start.
As I read these comments, I understand most people think of Falmouth of Rt. 1 and the ocean front but Falmouth encompasses a lot of farmland and woodlands near Route 100 and Windham, Westbrook and Cumberland. It’s important to keep the farms and woods as whole as possible but development on Route 100 is appropriate. Condensed housing is not ideal but the developments in the location by West Falmouth are near Portland and the Maine Turnpike. The land is situated between Route 100 and the Maine Turnpike. The town needs to adjust to this rapid growth however and should discourage this type and size of development for a few years at least. The town will be experiencing more demands on their services and schools because of this new developed area.
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I would like to see more variety in Falmouth’s housing in the next 10 to 20 years. Falmouth is a suburb of Portland with an enviable mix of residential development — homes on large rural plots in West Falmouth, dense neighborhoods like the Flats and Town Landing, estates that overlook the bay on Route 88, discrete cluster housing, and lower-cost rental housing tucked behind Waldo’s Market and other areas near Route 1. But our homes are so expensive that our young adults and the people we rely on to teach our children and protect us in emergencies can’t afford to live here. We can change that. As intended in the Village Center ordinance, Route 1 would be an excellent location. Families could have starter homes through Habitat for Humanity, which provides mechanisms that prevent owners from flipping properties.
I would like the Town Council to explore ways that developers can be motivated with financial incentives to include affordable housing along Route 1. A project in Cape Elizabeth that uses TIF funding is gaining support despite initial opposition. It would be great if developers included affordable housing without an incentive but I’m afraid that’s unrealistic.
Also, I think the broad question in the survey about residential growth was so poorly written that the results are meaningless. “Actively promoting residential growth” is not an appropriate description on the scale to contrast with “restricting growth as much as possible.”
Thank you for the informative posts on this forum. I too share the desire to slow growth in an attempt to preserve the remaining rural nature of this town. And I understand and share the desire to create more affordable housing for young and senior residents. Yet as a resident of 26 years, I am aware these issues have been a continued concern since we moved to Falmouth. The town, in the past, has conducted town wide discussions (in the form of a charette) in an attempt to control many of these same issues we are discussing in this current process. So taken with a broad view, despite well intentioned controls, growth will continue despite restrictive limits on developers and even building permit limits capped at 65 (this equates to a possible additional 650 new single/two family units in the next decade ). Our town is desirable and continues to attract new residents and our attempts to slow growth through restrictive measures, while effective in the short term, will not ultimately prevent the loss of the rural character of Falmouth in the long term. Furthermore, slowing growth with restrictive measures may ironically increase the pressure to develop and certainly increases the competition for and the price of newly developed housing units.
Hence, I am writing to encourage this dialogue to consider and focus on the important role the landowner plays in controlling growth. Most development of any open space starts with the sale of land to a developer. For the most part, the town, as a whole, has essentially relied on the landowner to decide against development as the only long term solution to losing the rural character of Falmouth. A good question then should be “what is the town doing to encourage landowners not to develop?” Furthermore, once the landowner decides to sell their property the next owner may choose to develop, even if the current owner had not. It seems natural and easy to continue placing restrictive rules on land development in an attempt to slow growth but would it not be smarter and more effective to put in place policies to encourage existing landowners not to sell to begin with. Or if it is to be sold would it not be prudent for the town to put its money where its mouth is and preserve the land deemed important to the rural character through purchase. This land could then be leased to young farmers or entrepreneurs. Conservation easements, land trusts, and gifting the land to the town are all possible routes to preserving land but these routes still depend on the landowner’s good will to accept, most likely, a lower value for their asset. Perhaps the town could focus on encouraging landowners to give the town first right of refusal for the sale of their property. Furthermore, the town could focus again on establishing a fund to outright purchase vital pieces of property that contribute the rural viewshed of Falmouth. Removing land from the economic forces of the market is , in my opinion, the only way to preserve the rural character of Falmouth for the long term. Having said this, areas that are not considered to part of the rural character of Falmouth could be considered for more dense housing in an attempt to increase the availability of less expensive housing. I do, however agree with a previous post, that this should be an area specific decision as the greatest impact would be to the surrounding neighborhood.
The approach we (and every other municipality) take to development and land preservation/conservation is too orthogonal. The choice is presented as “either this land gets developed or we can ‘save’ it.” But in fact, there is a lot of real estate (pun intended) between those two poles that never gets explored, and we make sub-optimal decisions as a result.
A good example is Hurricane Valley Farm. I was on the planning board when we approved a 17-lot subdivision. We spent a lot of time discussing how to preserve the viewshed of this pristine property in spite of the development. After approval, it was purchased by Falmouth Land Trust, including $400,000 from the Town, and preserved in toto. This seems like a happy ending but let me offer an imagined and improved alternative ending.
The subdivision was conceived as a single road, stemming from Schuster Road, and extending out into the existing fields. Of the 17 lots, the end of the new road posed the biggest challenge to the viewshed. However, the first few lots from Schuster Road would have been entirely screened by existing structures and vegetation. Instead of 17 lots, the Town could have permitted, or itself developed, a miniature 2-4 subdivision that would have left 95% or more of the land untouched. That could have been sold to cover some, if not all, of the Town’s financial commitment.
In fact, on many subdivision projects, what is most desirable and cost effective for development (close to road & utilities) is the least valuable ecological resource, while what is most worth preserving (wetlands, deep woods) is the most expensive and least desirable to develop. We should rethink how we approach land conservation to take advantage of this inverse relationship. On the planning board, we often talked about how to include open space within developments. Why do we not talk about how to marry low-impact development with land preservation? By recapturing some economic value from the land, it stretches the conservation dollar and allows more extensive preservation of natural resources than having an “all-or-nothing” mindset. If Falmouth had taken this approach to Hurricane Valley Farm, it might now be having the enviable discussion of which parcel to conserve next with the balance of funds remitted from the sale of a couple lots. Furthermore, the few lots that get developed along the immediate road frontage of much larger parcels are themselves very high quality and enhanced by their proximity to dedicated conservation land.
Christopher Hickey’s proposal is a fresh approach that might really present a fork in the road that will work for Falmouth. It should be explored and added to the informative discussion that we had yesterday for our future residential growth. Also important is Thomas Stegemann’s suggestion of offering incentives for landowners not to develop. I am going to add comments about some of the discussion from the forum in a separate comment where we addressed what Falmouth residents would like to see. Tom’s and Christopher’s suggestion can be part of the solution that would jibe with what direction the residents would like to see happen.
Thank you for participating in such a dynamic and interesting focus group last night. This topic is so important for retaining Falmouth’s character while moving us into the future.
At the residential development Focus Group discussion yesterday there were 3 questions our groups were asked to answer.
1. Key things we have learned so far from previous entries.
2. What are future – splitting decisions that affect the future of development (Forks in the Road)
3. What would be our future Sweet Spot concerning development.
From the surveys that were done earlier there were a majority that did not want to increase the rate of residential growth and did not want large development.
In most of the groups, there was more of a focus on what type of development that we really wanted besides that fact that it would be desirable to have less development. Here were some thoughts from the groups I attended:
Smaller, moderately priced housing such as affordable condos are wanted. Denser housing would be one way to have it more affordable. There is a need for people 65 and over to be able to stay in Falmouth and there is a need for our children to be able to afford to live here which can be done with denser housing like condos and apartments.
Where the affordable housing should go is important. There are different types of neighborhoods in Falmouth. The flats and the areas closest to Rt 1 are already more dense neighborhoods which is desirable to many of those residents because of the sense of community. Each separate community should be able to decide what kind of growth would be a fit. There are neighborhoods where farms would be a better fit. There was a consensus on not building large developments covering a lot of land. The character of the community and the social fabric is the biggest consideration. There were several suggestions about taking a pause in building, a temporary moratorium until we decide what we would like.
Also some residents said that the best thing to do would be not to build at all because we are in the midst of an environmental due to climate change, and new buildings mean worsening that crisis. Every tree that is cut down and the lumber and concrete and all the materials used works against our efforts to have a better environment.
There is always pressure to build. We are a south to north corridor and there will always be traffic going through our town. We have to address each section of Falmouth in a way that complements that section.
For the future sweet spot we talked about slowing down growth and having more affordable dense housing, and growth in neighborhoods where the neighborhood might welcome it to give young people more opportunities to come to Falmouth and enjoy the sense of community. We have to take into account protecting the environment no matter what direction is chosen. Incentives for landowners to direct development to what the town wants can be useful towards this goal.
I had personally wanted to offer affordable housing to share some of the burden that Portland carries, since the reason I like Falmouth so much is because of its proximity to Portland and I think that we can afford to offer something to carry the load. It would bring more young people and more diversity to the town. However with housing prices what they are I don’t even know if that is feasible right now. I also am very concerned with climate change and do always have that in mind when making decisions. Even if that just means encouraging or requiring more renewable energy solutions and products that have the least amount of environmental impact.
I think to be realistic Falmouth will need to incentivize current landowners that sell to purchase from the landowner at a good price and then pay for that by using part of the land for small subdivisions as was suggested in the recent comments by Thomas Stegemann and Christopher Hickey. This may require giving our town first refusal on the purchase of land. It would be useful to explore more how some other communities have achieved their residential housing goals.
Apologies if this is covered somewhere, but wanted to leave my 2 cents. My wife and I moved here from Washington DC specifically for the schools and a wonderful place to raise our three children. I know many colleagues who are here for the same reason, and we accept the taxes associated with keeping our school district among the top in the state. Any development, particularly expanding residential housing, should, IMHO, necessarily include an analysis of the impact on school systems. Certainly this should be well crafted–a single family home probably should be exempt, but a housing development of greater than say 5 houses, should have some sort of analysis of impact on schools. If our schools falter under the weight of rapid expansion, I fear an exodus to neighboring towns without the population crunch–Cumberland/Yarmouth (yet?). Safe, open spaces, YOU BET; But we need to keep laser focused on the quality of our schools. Thanks for listening.
I cannot think of a worse solution than having the Town have the right to refuse purchase of land. This is not a dictatorship and government controls to ensure the wishes of a few citizens is not a realistic vision!!
One more thought. Usually, the first right of refusal comes at a cost. As a landowner, there is no point in limiting your options without some form of compensation. A tax reduction would be the town’s main bargaining point but unimproved property owners pay a very small property tax anyway.
Another fallacy is the idea that dense residential building leads to lower-cost housing. A prime example is Homestead Farms built on 1/8 acre parcels with no private yards. How does a price of $600,000 sound for affordable housing? Developers love to promote dense housing because it reduces their fixed costs. Housing that is dense in the verticle direction can be less expensive to build, but Falmouth does not have a passion for high-rise structures. Without considerable cash flow from the town’s treasury, low-cost housing for Falmouth is only a wish. A big step to slowing growth could come from the Council and Planning Board. We must be vigilant this next year when the Council addresses the possibility of raising the growth cap.
I am concerned that developments like the one off of Route 100 are packing in houses tighter than most developments in Portland. Given the prices of these houses, they do not address the affordable housing issue, do not meet the building requirements in other areas of Falmouth and put a burden on our school system.
It seems like the current building plan is congested off Route 100 and Route 1. Perhaps loosing restrictions in zones that are currently less congested would be worth considering.