What Would Harvey Do?

 151 Parcel Zoning Should Be Supported

I can still hear the voice and those two words as if I last listened to his familiar high but endearing pitch yesterday.  "Hi kid," he'd always say, followed inevitably by a story of the way Falmouth "used to be" in "his day," and an admonition or some advice on how to fix things now.  It's been about a year and a half since my friend and dedicated Falmouthite Harvey Clauson passed, but many of the lessons he taught me and many students of local government live on.  Here's one that is surely timely:

I remember sitting in Harvey's office on Falmouth Heights Road a few years ago, marveling one more time at the sheer size of his desk (they had to remove a bay window to move it once), sitting in awe of the pictures of this larger-than-life figure piloting an airplane and driving a motorcycle, listening to his latest slate of opinions on the issues of the day, when he told me about his friend and fellow Falmouthite Charlie Doe, the owner and founder of the 99 restaurants.  Charlie was planning to build some doctors offices on property near the hospital lights on Palmer Ave.  Harvey explained that neighbors and do-gooders (Harvey's phrase, not mine, although it is catchy), were up in arms and pressuring Town officials to nix the plans for development of medical offices near the hospital by a man who a kind friend to thousands and was a quiet donor of millions.  

"If the Town doesn't want anything built there, they should put their money where their mouth is and buy the thing," Harvey offered, although his actual version was peppered with more colorful language. 

At a subsequent meeting of the Selectmen, I opined that if the town didn't want the parcel to be developed, we should put our money where our mouth is and buy it.  We did, in no small way thanks to the candor, humor and wisdom of Harvey Clauson. 

If Harvey were here today, I suspect he'd have a similar view of the 31 Acre parcel on Route 151 owned by the CLSV Limited Partnership, known to most of us as the Ballymeade developers. The partners, aptly and always straightforwardly represented by their front man Jody Shaw, have once again submitted an article for Town Meeting, this time to apply the recently created Senior Care Retirement District (SCRD) zoning to this parcel.  Jody and the Ballymeade partners have submitted many thoughtful plans for development of this triangle of land, only to be thwarted each time by Town Meeting, the Planning Board, or both.  My point is not to call into question the decisions by these elected bodies - they are elected to do a job and have done it - but this latest in a long line of proposals is proposing to overlay a district that was approved by Town Meeting after several years in the making, for a use that has been touted as acute, on a parcel near highway access. 

Approval of this latest plan is a public policy no-brainer, although you wouldn't know it from the lukewarm reaction by some in Town Hall Square.  The SCRD is designed to allow for development that provides facilities for our ever-burgeoning senior population and associated retail uses, filling a real hole in our local planning needs.

Much of the opposition now and formerly has centered on the fact that many would like to see no development on the parcel.  That's just not realistic.  The only way that would be possible would be to stay true to the advice of the late great Harvey - if the town doesn't want CLSV to develop this parcel, they should put our money where their mouths are - and buy it.  The kid was listening, my friend.

This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

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