After approximately 45 minutes of discussion, the Falmouth Select Board on Monday, August 24, voted 3-2 to grant a variance to the flow neutral bylaw, allowing a Wendy’s restaurant proposed for the Worcester Court/Spring Bars Road intersection to connect to the sewer.
Board members Douglas C. Brown and Nancy R. Taylor voted against the variance.
Allowed 451 gallons of wastewater per day by right, the 50-seat fast food restaurant requested an allocation of 1,000 gallons per day. Wastewater Superintendent Amy Lowell wrote in an email that the town’s wastewater system “has sufficient capacity to accommodate the proposed redevelopment.”
“It is a modest request,” attorney Robert H. Ament said. “One thousand gallons per day would be the amount of flow three three-bedroom [homes] would require.”
Noting the property is zoned for the proposed use, Mr. Ament said even with the board’s approval, it would still require review from the planning board and zoning board of appeals.
“This is the first step in permitting,” he said. “Without the sewer connection being allowed, there is no more permitting to be done.”
Noting board policy, Ms. Taylor said a variance may be granted if a business provides significant year-round benefits to the Falmouth community. She asked how many people would be employed at Wendy’s, what their salaries would be and what benefits they would receive.
“This is a year-round restaurant which would have numerous employees who, for the industry, would be paid very well,” Mr. Ament said.
Co-owner Usama El Sehrawey, noting that Fashion Foods LLC operates five Wendy’s, said each location employs approximately 25 full-time employees year round. The number increases to approximately 35 employees during the busier summer months. Standard salary is $14 an hour, $1.25 more than minimum wage. Managers can earn between $45,000 and $70,000 annually, and all employees working more than 30 hours per week are offered health insurance benefits and access to a 401K plan, Mr. El Sehrawey said.
“I think we are a very good employer, and we have people who have been with us for 25 years; working for us for 25 years which, in the fast food industry, is unheard of,” Mr. El Sehrawey said. “We had a lot of employees who stay with us. I can take pride in saying we are a family business. We have second-generation employees coming in, so we feel very good about our relationship with our employees.”
Board member Samuel H. Patterson said restaurants like Wendy’s play an important role in the economy, noting fast food restaurants provide part-time jobs for students as well as jobs for people without a professional background.
“These kind of job opportunities are jobs for a certain segment of our population, and I don’t think we should exclude them from opportunities,” Mr. Patterson said. “I just wanted to mention that. It would be nice to have office space for physicians in there, and their assistants and receptionist, but there is a cohort in our community that needs these kinds of jobs, even as a second job.”
While the project has not been reviewed by the planning board, Town Planner Thomas Bott sent a letter to the select board noting the project “does not align with the broader community planning objectives as specified in the Davis Straits Reset Study.”
Mr. Ament agreed that the proposed location is part of a future planning district.
“I don’t think it is unreasonable to have a restaurant like this, a new restaurant like this, in the area that is proposed, next to lots of other businesses, where people are coming for commercial purposes, next to the Falmouth Mall, next to the other businesses on Worcester Court,” he said. “If not here, where else would you have this business?”
Board member Douglas C. Brown said the board received 21 emails opposed to the application. The most common concerns relate to parking, increased traffic and Falmouth’s sewer capacity.
“[The] Wendy’s application for a wastewater flow variance puts our relatively new wastewater system at risk,” wrote Jim Reulbach of Mayflower Street, Teaticket. “[The] Wendy’s wavier request should be denied based on this development’s negative impact on the surrounding area and the negative impact on our wastewater system.”
Hugh and Erin McGourty of Cypress Street, Teaticket, said restaurants like Wendy’s take away from the character of Falmouth.
“Falmouth is losing its charm as a Cape Cod town, it is being overdeveloped,” they wrote. “It is no longer a special place, it is becoming just like any other town across the bridge.”
Shirley Lombardozzi of Oak Street, Falmouth, said the board needs to give her neighborhood a break.
“You have pushed through, against neighborhood concerns and requests, a housing development that no one wanted to be erected because of crowded streets already,” Ms. Lombardozzi wrote. “The last thing we need is more concentration of vehicular traffic in an already overburdened area of this town. Enough is enough!”
The board also received letters of support for the application from the Orleans Chamber of Commerce, the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce, Cape Cod Healthcare, the Cotuit Center for the Arts and two Falmouth residents.
“I have been a Falmouth resident for over 20 years and support all types of businesses, local, chains and franchised,” wrote Dana Fernandez of Ashumet Road, East Falmouth. “Businesses bring jobs and help towns and cities thrive, and adding another business would do just that. Having a variety of restaurants serves all people, full-time residents and part-time residents, vacationers young and old. In addition, Wendy’s would be a welcome choice to the town.”
Addressing the concerns about sewer capacity, Mr. Ament said almost any business proposed for the lot would exceed the allotment of 451 gallons per day.
“Denial of even 1,000 gallons per day from this site, an increase of about 550 over what is allowed by right, is saying little development or only very narrow development will be allowed at this site,” he said. “I don’t think that was the intent of the flow neutral bylaw. It was to require, in particular, review of the capacity issue.”
He said a Title V-compliant septic system could be installed on the site to support the proposed use.
“This isn’t taking advantage of the sewer to build a development that couldn’t otherwise occur,” Mr. Ament said.
He said the concerns about traffic on Worcester Court and Teaticket Highway are valid, and a traffic study will be commissioned prior to seeking site plan approval from the planning board.
After the board voted to grant the variance Mr. Patterson said, “This is a tough one for me. I understand the questions about how we budget the available sewer capacity, but I look at this as redevelopment of a commercial strip. I’m having a rough time convincing myself that this isn’t an appropriate use, and if it is not this business, what business is going to go there? It is going to get used eventually.”
“I am looking forward to hearing the other boards’ reaction to this,” board member Douglas H. Jones said.