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Board of Selectmen, Planning Board move on wind turbines, affordable housing, Teaticket park

At a joint meeting with the Planning Board on Monday night, the Board of Selectmen discussed developments in several controversial town issues, including wind power and affordable housing, and voted to OK a grant application by the 300 Committee Land Trust, which hopes to turn the land currently occupied by Joe’s Driving Range in the Teaticket section of Falmouth into a public park.

Vice Chairman of the Planning Board Patricia Kerfoot told the board about the plan to make the most of the one-year moratorium on new wind turbine construction in Falmouth, recommended to the April Town Meetings by the Planning Board and approved there overwhelmingly. Kerfoot said that a “consensus-building effort” could be useful in establishing Falmouth’s future policy toward the turbines.

Kerfoot outlined the process, which would begin with an analysis of the current situation by attorney Edith Netter, and a determination of whether a consensus-building effort would be appropriate, given those conditions. If the decision was made to proceed, an estimate of the cost for the entire process would be presented, and the town would decide whether to fund the effort via an article at the November Town Meetings.

A consensus-building effort, Kerfoot said, would allow all interested parties to have a voice in the process of establishing a new zoning bylaw concerning wind turbines in Falmouth. The initial stages of the process would be informal and behind closed doors, which would allow people to speak their minds freely, and possibly lead to compromises which could not be reached in the highly charged public debate over wind power in Falmouth.

“We all know we’ve got an antiquated bylaw,” Kerfoot said. That law’s revision will be a top priority for the Planning Board and other town bodies in the months to come.

The combined boards also discussed the plans currently underway to provide affordable housing on three Falmouth properties. Acting Town Manager Heather Harper said the plan to provide two one-family homes at 55 Glenwood Avenue through Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod was “moving along very well.”

Less advanced are plans to use the Odd Fellows Hall and land on Saint Marks Road for affordable housing, though the boards moved forward on those projects by voting to prepare requests for proposals, which would elicit bids from private developers interested in using the properties for affordable housing. The Odd Fellows Hall, in particular, has been an issue for the town since its purchase, which was made in order to preserve the exterior of the structure in its current form. That requirement would be placed on anyone purchasing and developing the property.

Chairman of the Planning Board Ralph Herbst, who has worked closely on the issue, told the Board of Selectmen that “the ball is in your court now,” and demonstrated it by presenting Harper and the board’s five members with tennis balls, each inscribed “Odd Fellows Hall 2011.”

Finally, the Board of Selectmen voted to allow the 300 Committee, which is not a town body, to submit a grant for state funds to help purchase the plot of land currently occupied by Joe’s Driving Range in Teaticket.

The proposed park, noted Selectman Melissa Freitag, would connect the school with the post office, and would “start making Teaticket a community again.”

At a previous meeting, the board had expressed concern with the committee’s plans to tear down the house on the property, which has been there since the 1940’s. The board had asked if the house could be converted into affordable housing, but the committee said that it is in such disrepair that the costs of bringing it into compliance with current building standards would be prohibitive. The board and the committee pointed out that the house could be sold and moved, if an interested party were found.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to authorize Harper to draft and submit a proposal for state grant money on behalf of the 300 Committee. If the grant is accepted, the 300 Committee would proceed with the purchase in December of this year, and with the removal or demolition of the house by June 2012, after which construction and landscaping of the proposed park would begin.