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.