FOCUS GROUP SUMMARY

#8 – Environmental Focus

The Vision and Values Environmental Focus Group met virtually on September 18, with 44 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 the environment.

 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 an environmental focus 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?

  • The climate is changing and there is a sense that the community is not doing enough to protect our resources. 
  • Falmouth has a long history of support for environmental concerns and there is interest in protecting its green spaces, especially with the pressures of population growth.
  • Surveys showed conservation of the environment as important with some concerns for the future regarding farming and the value of waterfront.

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)

  • The future-splitting issue is how Falmouth develops land in the future. Growth can be controlled by ordinances regarding trail connectivity, shoreline zoning and water quality, setbacks and lot sizes, conservation easements, use of pesticides and fertilizers, and more open space, towards which Land for Maine’s Future and private funds as well as public funding can be directed. 
  • 3 future-splitting issues: 
    • The balance between open space and density; with a goal of keeping as much open space as possible to assure decisions allow access. Note open space in Falmouth has made the community more attractive to non-residents and is adding to development pressure as more people want to move here.
    • Determining what energy sources should be used by the Town to keep it sustainable.
    • Transportation and the need to invest actively to reduce pollution and to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Development future-splitting issues: Suburban sprawl vs. Downtown (urban) density; Family vs. Retirement (housing); Water quality vs. Growth; Invasive plants vs. Herbicides; Walkable vs. Car-orientation; Money vs. The environment (more green space may mean less $ for Town.
  • 4 issues facing Falmouth:
    • Keeping the residents involved and interested
    • Controlling surface water and carried pollutants
    • Encourage green scaping (yard and hardscapes)
    • Encouraging green practiced (recycling, e-vehicles, new construction standards)
  • Housing affordability is a huge issue for Falmouth if we want economic diversity and to maintain a welcoming posture. We need to weigh priorities and look to best practices (Cape Elizabeth) for examples.

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)

  • Sweet spot is balance – Balanced development with commitment to the environment seems realistic for Falmouth.
  • Sweet spot for consensus on a sustainable future requires citizen buy-in on a variety of levels. Options need to include layers: living lawns for homeowners, alternative energy, human-powered transportation and trails, sanctuaries for wildlife not just people, more open space, connectivity of open space, good water quality in streams, fun-off, and the ocean, a variety of housing options, ordinances that control growth, carbon neutrality, and working relationships with surrounding towns and organizations like Friends of Casco Bay.
  • Sweet spot is carbon neutrality and/or carbon negativity (solar at transfer station, solar on roofs of all town buildings, solar shade structures at parking areas, increased multiple user/non-vehicle commute options, electric vehicle charger grants, wind power).

Consultant’s Insights:

  • Decisions to protect the environment or conversely to promote growth can both have unintended consequences. These issues need to be weighed carefully to map out the long-term consequences of actions in these area.
  • Change is often uncomfortable to break away from the status quo, but now you have an opportunity to look at many systems through the environmental lens and plan for Town growth with an eye to environmental protection and sustainability.

Participant quote:

“People come to Falmouth because they like the environment. If the environment in Falmouth dies, the Town of Falmouth dies.”

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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