Town of Falmouth, former U.S. Senate candidate resolve controversial dispute over business sign

The debate is ending over the TideSmart Global sign at 380 U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth.
The debate is ending over the TideSmart Global sign at 380 U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth.
Posted Jan. 29, 2013, at 4:11 p.m.
Maine businessman Steve Woods.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Maine businessman Steve Woods. Buy Photo

FALMOUTH, Maine — It took six months of negotiations and sometimes acrimonious debate, but the Town Council on Monday unanimously approved an agreement that allows a Route 1 business sign to stay put without any changes.

Councilors voted 6-0 for the consent agreement with TideSmart Global. Councilor Tony Payne recused himself because of a business relationship with TideSmart.

The only condition to the agreement was that Yarmouth resident Steve Woods, CEO of the company at 380 U.S. Route 1, pay a $500 fine to cover the administrative cost of negotiations between the town and his company.

Debate surrounding the TideSmart sign began after the Aug. 27, 2012, council meeting, where instead of discussing a proposed ordinance, councilors — with the exception of Payne, who recused himself — spent 45 minutes discussing Woods’ business and calling for a “punitive fine.”

The issue councilors focused on was that the word “Global” on the sign was one inch shorter than the five inches required by town ordinance. Additionally, there were claims that the pillars were two feet taller than the ordinance’s six-foot requirement.

Woods said that when talks began in December to craft a consent agreement, he told Town Manager Nathan Poore and town staff that he was uninterested in an agreement that included a large fine, but that he was willing to pay the administrative costs of brokering the deal.

After coming out of executive session on Monday, Councilor Theresa Pierce said she was happy the town’s attorney, staff and Woods were able to reach an agreement .

“I am pleased to move forward and put this in the past,” she said.

Woods, a former independent candidate for U.S. Senate who is now a Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, agreed.

“My hope and expectation is that this matter is behind us now,” he said Tuesday. “I’m excited to continue what I think is a positive and supportive relationship with Falmouth and the council and I look forward to many future positive meetings and positive plans working with the town.”

Also Monday, Councilors Chris Orestis and Karen Farber presented a report that evolved from an open letter sent to the council by attorney Jonathan Berry. The letter included suggestions for making the town more business friendly.

The report identifies several areas where the town is making improvements to its ordinances and practices to make Falmouth a more attractive place to do business.

“What we were doing was, in essence, engaging in an exercise [to ensure] that we are being very thorough concerning zoning issues as it relates to Route 1 and the entire town,” Orestis said. “[This is] an opportunity to engage and get more input and comment from the public and the business community.”

He said that through the report the committee found that Falmouth has a very strong business environment, but there are areas that need examination.

Councilor Bonny Rodden said that while the report contains good suggestions, some of the “problems” are ones already being worked on. Rodden cited a proposed change to the site plan review process, Route 1 infrastructure improvements and zoning issues as examples.

Orestis said that as the town moves forward with planning for its commercial districts, officials must take the time to be transparent and interactive, engaging the citizenry at all levels.

“Our town’s commitment to proactive and positive engagement with the business community and working with town staff [will show that] Falmouth is open for business,” he said.

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