Falmouth Factchecker Needed

As the political season ramps up this autumn, many political aficionados are turning to the website factcheck.org for guidance on the half-truths and real facts being offered to voters this election season. We need a local version.

On Monday evening, Selectmen, citizens, open space advocates and affordable housing experts alike gathered at Town Hall for the latest round in the marathon bout that has become the effort to produce affordable housing in Falmouth's only village with none: Woods Hole.

As this ongoing debate has seen its share of varying facts and bending truths, here are some offerings from this column's official source for local election season information, Falmouth Factchecker:

FACT: 419 Woods Hole Road, recently dubbed "Webster Woods" by neighborhood activists who oppose development on the site, was gifted to the Town of Falmouth specifically to be developed. Yes, this development was proposed to be an elementary school, but the family nonetheless planned for trees to be cut down for a school, playgrounds, and a parking lot. The notion that housing on this site somehow dishonors the donors' notion of near full lot coverage is untrue and is a change in history to support a political objective.

FACT: The alternative being offered by a loosely banded group of 419 Woods Hole Road opponents, redevelopment of the bankrupt Oshman Way single family home, is far from being ready for development as a multi-unit solution to the problem. Developer Chris Wise has an undisputed track record for high quality and responsible development, but he does not yet own this property.

FACT: If the affordable development on 419 Woods Hole Road and the development on Oshman Way are both built to their full potential, the village will still be far below its target for affordable units.

FACT: This issue has been ongoing since 2003. Selectman Kevin Murphy, in arguing against the 419 Woods Hole Road article at the last Town Meeting, assured Town Meeting Members that a viable alternative was forthcoming. No development agreement exists on the Oshman parcel that is currently owned by Harbor One bank.

What these facts amount to is the obvious conclusion that the 419 Woods Hole Road project is ready to go and the Oshman Way project is not. In a near-frenzied effort to not build on the 419 site at any costs, project opponents have latched onto a competing proposal with its own set of lingering questions. Abutters to the Oshman site appeared at Monday's meeting clearly upset that they had not been included in the "fast track" project planning.

Peter Clark made one of the few salient points during Monday's debate, noting that the 419 parcel should not be taken off the table until a clear alternative is actually viable. He added later that both could be pursued as a solution to this vexing problem.

Here's a question - why not do both?

Here's another - why must these developments compete against each other for approval?

It appears the Selectmen agreed, for at least a couple of minutes. By a majority vote, they voted to support the petition article offered by the members of the Affordable Housing Committee who have labored for nearly five years on this issue. They then changed that vote under pressure from Selectman Kevin Murphy, who has been the driving force behind the Oshman alternative and continued his relentless pounding of the Affordable Housing Committee and their volunteer work at Monday's meeting.

Here's another question: Who is in charge?

FACT: The Town Meeting members. They will have the opportunity to separate the real issues from the political rhetoric in a few weeks at Town Meeting. Let's hope they use a fact checker too.

Troy B.G. Clarkson, a Falmouth resident for 35 years, served for 12 years on the Falmouth Board of Selectmen.  This article is reprinted from the Falmout Bulletin.  He welcomes feedback at [email protected]

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