A Framework for Form-Based Codes on Cape Cod

This illustration shows what a mixed-use development might look like in Davis Straits.

Falmouth planners are seeking a local developer to join a new working group aimed at making the proposed Davis Straits village a reality.

The vision is to transform the Falmouth Plaza on Davis Straits into a 2.5-acre mixed-use commercial and residential walkable village with up to 50 affordable housing units and shopping. It would occupy the space from Staples to the shuttered Friendly’s and encompass a mix of apartments and 4,500 square feet of retail space. The concept has been in the works for at least seven years.

Falmouth Town Planner Thomas Bott said the purpose of a working group is to help move the idea forward and was hatched at the February joint select board and planning board meeting. Two members from each board will be appointed to the working group, and they are looking for a private developer to round out the membership.

“Since this will require zoning and other substantial changes, we want to include someone who works within the town’s input,” Mr. Bott said.

Ex-officio members include consultants from Union Studio and the Horsley Witten Group, the town planner and assistant town planner. The working group is expected to expire in two years and work will begin at the beginning of July, Mr. Bott said.

The goals are to advance the project by facilitating communication among the planning and select boards and the consultants and to suggest actions that will help turn the village into a reality. Mr. Bott said members would be a point of contact and obtain timely answers to questions posed by the select and planning boards and the consultants.

“Now that the community-wide survey regarding Davis Straits has been completed and the consultant group has more direction from the community to start building the potential bylaws we feel it is a good time to create the group with the above-mentioned goals,” he said.

For the project to work, the town would have to convince the plaza’s owners to tear down the buildings and start over. Future outreach includes focus groups with the current property owners.

The proposal also requires substantial zoning changes. A new type called form-based code is being proposed by the planning board. It specifies the shapes and forms of buildings and how they relate to each other.

The zoning would only apply to the specific lot—in this case, the 2.5 acres at Falmouth Plaza. The prescribed zoning for that plot would tell the developers the type of buildings and landscape that is required.

The anticipated benefits of applying Falmouth’s vision of form-based code are walkability, sense of community and increased housing for all ranges of need, coupled with business and green space—in short, a healthy community, according to planning board member James Fox.

The proposal would have to allow 20 dwelling units per acre, which is against the town’s current zoning bylaw, which allows no more than six units per acre.

In several studies that the board commissioned, Falmouth Plaza was identified as a prime place for redevelopment and re-use of what the board called essentially an unattractive parking lot.

Interested developers can contact Mr. Bott at 508-495-7440.

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