Brox property sale defended

MILFORD – On Monday, the selectmen’s chairman defended the sale of the Brox property against ac­cusations that it was done in secrecy and it amounts to a financial loss to the town.

Selectmen announced last week that the town is selling much of the north­ern, industrially-zoned half of the property to the nonprofit Monadnock Eco­nomic Development Cor­poration, which will bring water and sewer and other infrastructure to the site. Monadnock will then sell it to a Massachusetts com­pany called Stoneyard.

The announcement marked the end of a near­ly 15-year search for a buyer for the 120 acres, a search hampered by lack of infrastructure.

In a letter, Suzanne Fournier of Brox Envi­ronmental Citizens, says there has been unneces­sary secrecy surrounding the sale.

The purchase and sales agreement between Mo­nadnock and the town of Milford calls for 98 acres to be sold for $168,000. The town bought a total of 270-acres in 2000 for $1.4 million with the intention of selling the northern portion for tax-ratable industry and using the southern half for commu­nity uses. Selectman Mark Foug­ere said Stoneyard’s pres­ence here will be "very tax positive," and towns and cites are required to do land negotiations in private.

Infrastructure to make the property usable will cost millions, he said, and "taxpayers weren’t go­ing to spend that" kind of money.

Fournier also said the town did not abide by a state statute govern­ing acquisition or sale of land that requires review by town land-use boards and public hearings.

But the selectmen were given full authority through a warrant article in 2011 that voters over­whelmingly approved, Fougere said in a phone interview Tuesday. The 2011 article modified one passed in 2001 that also gave selectmen the right to sell the property.

According to the town attorney, the 2011 vote supersedes the RSA, he said. "We made our in­tent (to sell the property) quite clear."

Stoneyard plans to move from Littleton, Mass., and build a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. It needs the Milford Plan­ning Board’s site plan re­view, including a public hearing. Future plans call for a showroom and dis­tribution facility, Fougere said, and the company will bring about 100 jobs.

Fournier maintains that the land is too eco­logically important to be developed and points to a recent natural resourc­es inventory that recom­mends it be sold to a con­servation organization.

Audrey Frazier, chair­woman of the Milford Conservation Commis­sion, had offered a draft warrant article to select­men in May asking vot­ers to allow the property to be sold as conserva­tion land.

She said she was "a little blind-sided" by the sale announcement, and is concerned about the environmental effects of the stone operation on the property, includ­ing its effect on a large beaver dam and on a po­tential walkway from the middle school and high school to the community lands.

The New Hampshire Division of Economic Development was part of the process of bringing Stoneyard to Milford.

The company con­sidered other places to relocate, said business development director Cynthia Harrington in an email, "but chose Mil­ford as a place to grow for many reasons, in­cluding the town’s roots in the granite industry… This is a third genera­tion company that com­plements the region and its history."

Fougere said one rea­son the property is at­tractive to Stoneyard is its size – the company needs a large land area to store the rocks it uses to make thin stone ve­neers from fieldstones.