FOCUS GROUP SUMMARY

#2 – Non-Residential Development and Future Town Center

The Vision and Values Non-Residential Development and Future Town Center Focus Group met virtually on September 22, with 29 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 non-residential development and future town center.

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 non-residential development and a future town center 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?

  • Small local shops and boutiques are critical to the town center with 2-3 story buildings and a diversity of street scape that values green space and potentially green buildings. 
  • Increased space for commercial buildings is encouraged to increase their tax base. Mixed-use buildings are preferred.
  • There is a desire to create a village/town center feel and for non-commercial centers to be walkable. A plan (Master Plan) for development is desired. (NOTE: The Town does have a ‘Master plan’ and has ‘check in’ points every 3-5 years.)
  • Route 1 seems to be the ideal place for development of look and feel of the Town. Would be great to have places to go like more restaurants. Currently only big box stores and parking lots. Improved connectivity along Route 1 is needed.

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)

  • A plan gives us the opportunity to steer growth one way or another within area nodes/neighborhoods. Guidelines need to balance the freedom to develop vs. being too prescriptive.
  • A fork in the road: Should we wait to see the outcomes of the Vision and Values process before deciding on more development? 
  • There is a tension about where the focus of traffic should be. Overall, there is a tension between how proactive and predictive we should be about development; should we incentivize with tax rates?

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)

  • A vision that finds balance; one that balances the various interest groups and that enfranchises all groups; one that that finds a balance and understanding of the synergies that exist between residential and commercial density (example: Balance Route 1, other areas, commercial and non-residential).
  • A sweet spot would be a path forward that incentivizes and works with developers to make the Town more walkable, liveable and less car centric.
  • Sweet spot: Open zoning to create community pockets. Engage the community in creating areas that address the nodes so developers can come in and know what the community wants. For example, considering other concerns like housing affordability, environmental sustainability, walkability (less car centric), amenities like restaurants/retail; need to promote actual denser, mixed-use development especially along Route 1. Commercial development in isolation is not what we are looking for.
  • Sweet spot: Area planning for the future especially in municipal services and social infrastructure – need to reserve land for this.

Consultant’s Insights:

  • Use of renderings could help with citizen understanding of how new development would look; help visualize. This is an opportunity for the Town to educate the public about growth and what it means; to help craft/shape results and understanding of plans so that no one feels left out. This might be in the form of an annual Town Hall meeting to update the public on the Comprehensive Plan progress.
  • Increased social infrastructure needs to be imbedded into any development that takes place.
  • Creating neighborhood nodes has implications for revenue streams.
  • Non-residential development and a commercial town center are going to happen, the issue is HOW do you guide the plan for development? Either participate or allow current zoning to happen. Provide ‘framing’ guidance to developers; need to get this right.

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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