Residential development is a key topic for Falmouth. As part of the Vision and Values project, we want to explore potential future trajectories, options, and implications. This is a complex topic, where there are sometimes competing desires with respect to growth, density, housing availability, municipal services and open space. There are trade-offs and consequences of future choices. Getting this balance right is important for the future of the community.
What we know so far (from the Community Survey results and background research work):
Falmouth has a growing residential population and has increased in population every decade since the 1920s. There was significant population growth between 1920 and 1960. Between 1990 and 2000, the population increased 35%, from 7,610 to 10,310 residents.
Between 2010 and 2019, the Falmouth population increased by 8.5%, equating to a 0.94% annual growth rate. For example, surrounding communities had the following annual growth rates: Cumberland (1.21%), Yarmouth (0.24%), North Yarmouth (0.67%), Durham (0.42%), Pownal (1.21%), Cape Elizabeth grew (0.3%) and Freeport (0.79%).
RELATED MACRO TRENDS
The Greater Portland area (defined here as the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford/Saco Area) now has a population of over half a million people and is a significant urban center. This has an impact on Falmouth, as it is within the commuting and economic influence of Portland.
The COVID-19 Pandemic is having an impact on where people live and work. This has resulted in increased movement of people from larger cities to regional centers and semi-rural areas. The long-term impacts are still playing out, and their future implications are not yet clear.
There is a macro global and US trend toward mass urbanization, a term that describes more people living in urban centers. This is creating larger and, in some cases, denser metropolises and urban centers, right across the county. There is also ‘urban sprawl’, where these large urban centers spread. This can place growth pressure on surrounding towns, suburbs, and landscapes, such as Falmouth.
Many communities are wrestling with these issues, and are seeking innovative solutions to balance density, open space, and housing types. Of particular importance to many communities, is what is termed the ‘missing middle’ housing, which provides housing on smaller more affordable lots. Another example is the concept of ‘gentle density’, where higher density developments are designed to create some sense of space. Another example is the concept of urban growth boundaries, such as applied in Portland, Oregon
WHAT IS CURRENTLY HAPPENING IN FALMOUTH
There is an existing residential growth cap in Falmouth, that limits the number of new homes in the community. This was introduced in 2000 to regulate the pace of development. The growth cap has now been met in 3 out of the last 5 years.
The Town of Falmouth has an existing Comprehensive Plan. This lays out the general parameters for development, such as where growth should occur. Future developments are approved through Town planning processes and must conform to the Comprehensive Plan. The various thresholds such as building height, density, and areas of infill development are regulated by the Town’s zoning ordinance. The next Comprehensive Plan update is scheduled to occur sometime after the Vision and Values project is completed.
WHAT THE COMMUNITY SURVEY RESULTS SHOW
The recent pace of residential growth in Falmouth has caused concern among many residents, as was revealed in the recent community survey. These views were expressed in response to open ended questions and numerical responses. The majority of survey respondents would like to now see residential development restricted as much as possible, and some of them would like to see the pace of development slowed down.
Falmouth faces the dilemma shared by many smaller communities on the edge of growing metropolises. People are attracted to move to these types of communities because of amenities and proximity. Longer-term residents often resist this change and growth. This can create push-pull tensions within the community.
Current building patterns suggest that current demand for housing in Falmouth exceeds supply. This can lead to distortions such as higher housing prices, and less housing availability. This can then have knock-on effects on things like local tax rates, over-inflated house prices, social make-up, and even school enrollments.
The community has been very clear in the Community Survey #1 that it wants the Town of Falmouth to control the amount and type of development. However, the community has a wider range of views about the type of housing development people want, with a range between single family detached to more diverse housing options and development. Being able to find a shared future pathway will require understanding broader shared interests; appreciating the implications and impacts; and creatively exploring innovative local options.
The type, density, and scale of residential development in Falmouth has a direct impact on the future social fabric and population make-up, as well as impacting the physical environment. Addressing the ‘missing middle’ may offer an approach that tackles multiple challenges at once.
We would love to hear your thoughts!
Falmouth is a community that is attractive to many people, and especially for school-aged families and retirees. Knowing that there are a range of views on this topic, we are keen to hear your comments about the future trajectory.
What do you think would be the ideal future residential landscape, that could create the best overall outcome for the community?
Comments made via this portal are public. We expect conversations to follow the rules of polite discourse. Messages containing inappropriate content or language will be removed at the discretion of Future iQ.
For more information about the Town of Falmouth Vision and Values project, please contact: