Battle over Brox in town, online

MILFORD – During a sometimes heat­ed meeting last week, selectmen de­fended the upcoming sale of town-owned land to a Massachusetts stone processing company.

The board signed a purchase and sales agreement with Monadnock Economic Development Corp. last month for 93 acres of the northern section of the Brox property for the ultimate use of Stone­yard, Inc. of Littleton, Mass.

Suzanne Fournier, of Brox Environ­mental Citizens, a group that is pushing to conserve the land, gave the board a pe­tition asking that the sale be on the town warrant next March.

She was backed up by several resi­dents, most of whom live near the town-owned property, who said residents should be allowed to vote on the pur­chase.

Selectmen say they have the authority to sell the property based on two votes at separate town meeting.

Some residents expressed fears about pollution, mentioning the town’s Super­fund sites, which brought a strong objec­tion from the board’s chairman.

"Comparing this to OK Tool is dis­graceful," said Mark Fougere, because

the planning board review process and federal and state regulations govern­ing industrial sites have evolved since the pollution occurred decades ago.

Fougere said he and Se­lectman Kevin Federico have visited the Little­ton, Mass., company and its processes reflect back to Milford’s tradition as a granite producing town.

"They cut rocks with a saw, and they store them," using stones they gather from all over New Eng­land, he said.

"We’ve been cutting stones in this commu­nity for 200 years. We are based on cutting granite, and with the environmen­tal regulations we have to­day, bringing up OK Tool and all that garbage has no place in this discus­sion. What was done in the 1940s and 1950s doesn’t happen today."

Bill Parker, the town’s community development director, refuted a letter to the editor from Fourni­er that says the purchase is a bad financial deal for the town.

Contrary to her claim, he said, tax revenue from Stoneyard will go into the general fund, and "ab­solutely no TIF (tax in­crement financing) is in­volved."

TIF financing would have meant taxes would be used for infrastructure improvements, rather than go into the general fund. That kind of financing will not be used, because they town is not borrowing money for the project.

The town bought the 270 acres from the Brox Cor­poration in 2000, partly to protect it from a large residential development and partly to acquire land to be sold for tax ratables. The second goal has been stymied by lack of infra­structure.

The southern half of the property is consid­ered community lands, for sports fields and whatever municipal uses would be needed in the future.

"We made a promise to voters that a portion of the land would go back on the tax rolls," Fougere said.

Audrey Frazier, chair­woman of the town con­servation commission, said she was speaking for herself in expressing con­cern that the development would impede public ac­cess through the property.

Lauren Noble, of Whit­ten Road, said she voted to buy the land 15 years ago, and now residents en­joy it year round for snow­shoeing, mountain biking and hiking.

"We would be remiss if we did not allow the town to vote," she said.

Fougere said he would ask the town attorney for an opinion on the peti­tion, but the board has the authority to sell the property, "based on the expressed and explicit instructions from town meeting on two separate occasions.

In 2001 voters autho­rized selectmen to sell the northern half of the property for industrial development and in 2007 voters approved rezoning the parcels to allow a mix of industrial and commer­cial development.

"This went before the budget committee. It went before public hearings," he said. "There was lots of interest. Lots of debate. This was not done in se­cret and it was done on two occasions."

Fougere read an email from George Skuse, of Highland Avenue, who identified himself as a vol­unteer trail steward with the conservation commis­sion, said he doesn’t be­lieve the planned indus­trial development would cause harm, as "a small group of vocal citizens" claim.

Monadnock, a nonprofit regional development company, is buying the land for $168,000 and de­veloping it, adding sewers and water and improving the access road. It plans to build a 60,000 square foot manufacturing building for Stoneyard.

Planning board vice Chairwoman Janet Lang­dell was in the audience and said there is a review process the company must go through, "and wetlands and wetland buffers that must be respected, review by town boards and com­missions.

Dust control, hours of operation and other as­pects will be reviewed, Fougere said, "they’re not applying for a building permit tomorrow."

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.