Rendering of a new building scheduled to go before the Falmouth Planning Board Tuesday, Jan. 5, after The Forecaster’s deadline. Courtesy / Archetype Architects

FALMOUTH — Plans for a four-story building at the Falmouth Shopping Center slated to come before the Planning Board on Jan. 5 has drawn concerns from a former town councilor.

Bonny Rodden, who chaired the council committee that wrote the 2013 zoning ordinance for the village center, said she’s worried about how fast the project has moved from first consideration to construction without peer review. She also said the building’s architecture doesn’t match what the council envisioned when writing the village center ordinance.

“The building and its surroundings may fit the technical requirements laid out in the zoning ordinance, but it lacks the heart and soul of a village center,” Rodden wrote in an email to The Forecaster. “The town of Falmouth deserves more. This is such an opportunity for Falmouth now and in the future! It needs to be well thought out, not rushed through.”

“I understand where she’s coming from certainly because she had a huge involvement in the creation of that district,” said Falmouth Land Use Planner Dawn Emerson. “What the vision is and how that is implemented in terms of the ordinance, sometimes there may be a little disconnect. But not having been there, I have to go by the ordinance and assume that that is what was intended.

According to the planning office, the 24,000-square-foot structure would be built on the south end of the plaza between the gazebo and Bath Savings Institute and include Chase Bank and a restaurant on the ground floor. The second through fourth floors would house office space. 

Stephen Bushey of Gorilla Palmer Consulting presented a pre-application sketch plan in November on behalf of plaza owners 20 Thames Street LLC and 122 PTIP LLC. The proposed development plan includes 20 new parking spaces adjacent to the building to meet the bank’s lease agreement. Access will be gained through the shopping center entrance.

Plans show landscaping along U.S. Route 1 that would provide some buffering but won’t block visibility of the building. Bike racks and benches are also laid out between the building and the sidewalk.

According to staff notes related to this week’s meeting, due to the prominent location, town staff “strongly recommends” the Planning Board require peer review of landscaping, lighting and architectural aspects of the project. If peer review is approved, the application would likely be tabled, Emerson said. The project could also be denied, approved with conditions, or approved as-is, which Emerson noted is unlikely.

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