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CPC Considers Requests For Land, Housing, Historic Preservation

Posted in: Top Stories, Falmouth News
Dec 12, 2008 - 5:08:20 PM
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FALMOUTH- The six applications before the Community Preservation Committee, one of which was submitted this week, were all deemed eligible for funding last night, but there was plenty of debate as to how much they should receive in light of limited funds.
The newest application was submitted by The 300 Committee, a request for $400,000 from the CPC to help fund the $1 million purchase of a 6.87-acre plot of land at 667 Sandwich Road in Teaticket that is owned by the estate of Carmela F. and Daniel V. Bartolomei Sr. 
The purchase would be supplemented by an anticipated $400,000 state grant from Massachusetts Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity, or LAND, program and $200,000 from The 300 Committee.
The property overlooks the Coonamessett River and, if purchased, it would give the public access to kayaking and canoeing there in addition to various hiking opportunities on the lot.
One of the points of discussion for CPC committee member Ralph E. Herbst was a single-family three-bedroom ranch house on the property. Margaret Hough Russell, the administrator for The 300 Committee, said, in order to receive LAND program funds, the house would either have to be moved or razed.
Mr. Herbst wondered if it might not be prudent to keep the house there and utilize it for affordable housing.
Ms. Russell said that option would alter the cost of the property because it would be subdivided. In addition, she said, the public access to the river would be lost because of the house’s proximity to the waterway.
She said, under the best circumstances, “we will explore moving the house. If that is not possible, The 300 Committee will have to tear it down.”
“That hurts, tearing down a house,” Mr. Herbst said. He urged Ms. Russell to look at ways of moving it to another location so the house could be used for affordable housing, noting that the CPC offers money toward projects that create housing for those on limited incomes.
CPC Committee member Patti B. Haney reminded Mr. Herbst that moving a house “sounds a lot easier than it is. You have to look into that carefully because sometimes it costs more than building a new house.”
Another concern raised by CPC member Kenneth M. Gartner was the impact of the economy on the purchase price. The house was appraised for $1 million in July and another appraisal is scheduled shortly, Ms. Russell said. Regardless of what the second appraisal is, she said, “we’ve got to [purchase] it for $1 million.”
Yet, Mr. Gartner wondered whether Community Preservation Act funds can be allocated to a property for that amount, when the price has most likely gone down since then. “Aren’t we obligated to not pay more than the appraisal?” he asked
This would be the case, Falmouth Assistant Town Planner Jessica K. Erickson said, if CPA funds were to pay the entire cost, but since it is only paying for a portion of the purchase that does not apply.
Regardless of these concerns, CPC member Peter L. Clark said, “I am convinced that this is a very valuable piece of property and is at the top of the list for The 300 Committee.” He added that they had a solid justification for the purchase of the property and the need for CPA money.
It was one of three applications that the CPC recommended to tentatively fund, despite its submittal after the October deadline. The late application was a topic of discussion as the CPC will look at its submission guidelines in the future in case the scenario comes up again.
In addition to The 300 Committee request, the CPC approved a $5,900 request by the Oyster Pond Environmental Trust for phragmites removal in Oyster Pond and a $282,700 request by Robert Murray, president of the Falmouth Housing Corporation and director of the Falmouth Housing Authority, to transfer that money into the affordable housing development fund.
The fund is used for the design and construction of affordable housing projects in Falmouth that arise throughout the year.
Although they supported a request from the affordable housing committee to fund the town’s housing production plan, committee members were disturbed by the lack of specifics in the application.
Among the most vocal was Melissa Freitag, who said, “I am not going to support this until you tell us how this [plan] will be done.” She said it would be irresponsible of the committee to vote an amount until more details were given.
Those details may come during a joint meeting between Falmouth selectmen and the Falmouth Planning Board in which the housing production plan, which identifies short- and long-term goals for affordable housing in Falmouth, will be an agenda item. During that meeting, CPC Chairman Barbara P. Schneider anticipated that selectmen will provide the details her board is looking for, such as how funds would be used to implement the plan.
The final two applications, both requests for historical preservation projects, had their funds reduced substantially, for different reasons. The CPC voted to approve $255,000 of a $493,311 request by Falmouth Public Schools to fund the restoration of the School Administration Building on Teaticket Highway.
Committee members complained to Acting Superintendent of Schools Marc P. Dupuis, who has been before the board before requesting money for the same project, that he has yet to seek outside funding to supplement CPA funds. Ms. Freitag said there are federal funds available to assist with this type of project and urged Mr. Dupuis to seek out these grant opportunities.
In addition, CPC member Kevin Andrade questioned funding the replacement and renovation of the windows in the building. “That is not a historical window behind me,” he said. The committee was meeting in the administration building.
The committee also deemed the request for structural and exterior improvements to preserve the Waquoit Congregational Church eligible, but decided to fund only the design of the project before committing $237,481 for restoration.
Before voting funds to restore the structure, Mr. Andrade said, “I would like to see a structural engineer’s complete set of plans and see what they would do with the building.”
All of these amounts are tentative and could eventually change when the CPC votes its final recommendations at its next meeting on Thursday, January 8, at the School Administration Building.