After repeated demands from the public, the Falmouth Planning Board will request transparency from the developer proposing to construct a 108-unit hotel at the corner of Main Street and Lantern Lane.
The project is proposed on both sides of Lantern Lane, which is now a public way.
The developer has asked the board to abandon the Main Street end of Lantern Lane, essentially turning control of that part of the road over to him and residents.
Some board members have stated the plans to abandon the road are dubious, since they have not seen final plans for the hotel.
“This absolutely has the overtones of a back-door deal,” said board member Ralph E. Herbst at a planning board meeting on Tuesday, June 10. “It doesn’t sound right to me. They should come in with an overall plan first.”
The development company’s approach to the project has been piecemeal thus far. Abandoning the road is the company’s first step, and neighbors to the project and planning board members want clarity on the next steps before any application is approved.
Residents of Lantern Lane are worried that if the board grants the application, they might lose access to their homes from Main Street, where Lantern Lane intersects and where the developer envisions the hotel to be built.
Board member Paul C. Dreyer said that a photograph has circulated of a bridge over the road connecting the two sections of the hotel, which could hinder access into the neighborhood. He was not sure about the bridge, however, because the developer’s procedures have been vague. “There are some real issues that need to be discussed,” he said.
The developer, Falmouth Hospitality LLC, had no representatives before the planning board Tuesday.
The board has a July deadline to make a decision on the road abandonment but chairman of the board Patricia H. Kerfoot suggested they ask for an extension to give the developer an opportunity to offer more clarity about the project. Members of the board agreed.
Whether the applicant agrees with the request is up to them, town planner Brian A. Currie said. He said he would approach the developer this week.
The developer has the right to abandon the road but the board members could place a covenant on the request to maintain a right-of-way for residents on Lantern Lane, Ms. Kerfoot said. Although it has not purchased the property yet, Falmouth LLC would own both sides of the road, which would grant it ownership.
But while it is the developer’s right to abandon the road, board member Robert J. Leary also did not like the company’s piecemeal approach and hoped that it would ease concerns before the board reached a decision.
He said they already know what they are going to do and could save the neighbors, themselves and us a lot of heartache if they came out straightforward and do a good presentation to ease concerns. “People are very wary of these back-door operations and I don’t think they did themselves any favors.”
Mr. Leary said he thought this approach leaves a “bad taste.”
He said the plans he has seen would add to this section of Main Street and benefit the town. Ms. Kerfoot agreed and said it could even benefit the residents of Lantern Lane as well.
Newly elected board member Kenneth W. Medeiros II disagreed that the project could benefit the neighborhood, although he said that he also did not understand the complete plan. The operators of the 108 cars parked at the hotel could start to use Lantern Lane, a neighborhood of 14 homes, as an exit from the hotel in an effort to avoid Main Street, he said.
He also said if they give the owner the right to abandon the road and the developer fails to build the project, the road would remain abandoned. The owner could sell the parcel and the new owners “could do whatever they wanted with it.”