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 firstname.lastname@example.org.