FOCUS GROUP SUMMARY

#1 – Residential Development

The Vision and Values Residential Development Focus Group met virtually on September 22, with 37 participants attending the session. Future iQ introduced the format of discussion for the evening, the purpose being to explore the three questions below as they related to the topic of residential development.

Participants were randomly assigned to breakout groups of 5-8 and asked to report back to the large group. The following paper synthesizes participant notes and live discussion of these questions; it concludes with some initial insights on the role residential development may play in planning for the future of Falmouth.

1. What are the key things we are learning about this topic - from the surveys, background information, future trends, and Discussion Board comments?

  • There is great interest in housing diversity; more, smaller, less expensive, denser, and thoughtfully placed.
  • Route 1 would be a good location for mixed use and residential development.
  • The pandemic has made costs higher and the rate of growth has been limited to infrastructure areas.
  • The discussion boards saw a preference for slower development, and the need for lower price points for housing (possibly need state subsidies to make it work).
  • In general, the community does not appreciate large developments. Many people like the rural character of Falmouth and there is little desire for rapid growth of the Town.
  • There is opportunity to repurpose/transition buildings to new purposes, potentially housing.

2. What are the one or two important potential future-splitting decisions or issues facing Falmouth, related to this topic; and, what are the implications and trade-offs of these different future directions?

 *(Definition of a future-splitting decision or issue: Something that represents a fork in the road, where future outcomes are significantly shaped by the decision or direction)

  • Future-splitting: Diversity vs. Exclusivity. How we use housing has the potential to either keep people here or drive them to other communities. It’s time to pause to look at development and decide whether we want more diversity or exclusivity; whether we want our kids to be able to afford to live here.
  • There is concern that Falmouth, depending on planning decisions, will be transformed one in of two ways: either the town becomes an economically diverse, accessible community, or it will become an enclave of wealthy people with high-paying jobs in major cities. This shows less concern about number of residents and more concern about social fabric. Growth has the potential to bring traffic, but good growth is possible if planning is consistent with character. Time is now to act.
  • The Fork in the Road is how development should be done. This can be addressed with building guidelines that are comprehensive, planful and thoughtful.

3. With regards to this focus group topic, where is the future ‘sweet spot’ for Falmouth?

*(Definition of a sweet spot: An optimal point or combination of factors or qualities)

  • The ‘sweet spot’ is to have more variety and diversity of housing using a plan with design standards and options, and that balances environmental impacts and social fabric needs. (Falmouth is missing middle housing.)
  • The ‘sweet spot’ is to meet residential demands while embracing inclusivity and diversity and considering ecological impacts. This also means consciously preserving what makes Falmouth unique.
  • The ‘sweet spot’ could mean mixed use density zoning in the center of town along route 1, using cluster growth and building the town’s tax base to allow us to preserve the rural areas and increase amenities at the same time.
  • To be provocative, the ‘sweet spot’ could mean we don’t increase rate of growth, but rather the type of growth. Build more affordable, less sophisticated, denser housing to give more people the opportunity to live here.
  • Falmouth’s diversity is an appeal of the town and a ‘sweet spot’. This happened with intension and planning. The need for different types of housing is important to also serve as solutions for people who already live here.
  • Our ‘sweet spot’ is to provide more detailed requirements for new homes; minimum standards for human space and human living – use incentives to create the development we do want while remembering that time is short to address the social fabric issue and affordability.
  • Different parts of town have different concerns – sweet spot would be to consider relating development to the character and terms of different parts of town.

Consultant’s Insights:

  • There was an overall sense from the responses to this question that residential development will define and shape the Town in the future , i.e. What it stands for.
  • Beware the impacts of intended and unintended consequences; no growth can lead to stagnation.
  • Note density is distinct from rate of growth.
  • Future splitting question is how the Town wants to look and feel in the future – address the need to allow growth, but in a purposeful way; it’s important to know what you want to become.

MORE INFORMATION​

For more information about the Town of Falmouth Vision and Values project, please contact:

David Beurle, CEO
Future iQ
Phone: (612) 757-9190
david@future-iq.com

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