Tonight the Falmouth Town Council decided to take the slow road to process the application to redevelop the Falmouth Shopping Center on Route 1 into a massive mixed-use development. The application is from controversial developers Joe Soley and Jonathan Cohen.
Cohen is the developer for the WEX headquarters on the Portland waterfront. Soley, a former business partner of disgraced Vice President Spiro Agnew, is a controversial landlord in Portland.
Following a thorough workshop that permitted no public comment, councilors said they would prefer to require Soley/Cohen to apply for a master plan for the overall project rather than ask for approval for a zoning change to suit their needs. Ethan Croce, Community Development Director, for the town of Falmouth, explained to the council that a master plan would enable the town to have much more regulatory authority over the massive development than a zoning amendment. The controversial developers would have to decide whether or not they wanted to engage in a master plan process rather than a zoning change; take it or leave it.
The controversial developers told Falmouth last month that if they were not able to get their permits by October 2018, the deal was off. “It’s an aggressive time frame the developers are looking for,” said Croce. Neither Cohen nor Soley attended the meeting this evening, but their engineer did attend. He did not give a presentation, but was available to answer questions that did not come his way.
Croce told the councilors that Falmouth currently has four active master plans, although he could not go into great details because they occurred before he took over his current position last fall. He said some are more restrictive than others.
Four studies will have to be conducted for the master plan. They include noise, light, stormwater and traffic. According to the Town Manager, the traffic could be the most impactful on the area. “We know there will be a significant traffic impact, but how will you manage it?” One councilor Hope Cahan, said through a telephone connection, that she would want to know about the impact of artificial turf on animals and she had other environmental issues she presented. Councilor Amy Kuhn asked for a habitat impact study. The developers have already done their own traffic study.
“I think it’s wonderful that the Town Council is being so thoughtful, said Amanda Henson, a Falmouth resident following the meeting.