Battle over Brox at forum

MILFORD – A group opposed to the development of the Brox property again sparred with selectmen, this time at the board’s fifth Monday public forum last week, prompting other residents to leave their homes and join the fray.

Roger Tilton, of Berkely Place, told board members that people don’t trust them and that officials are part of an old-boy network. And Suzanne Fournier, who wants Brox to become conservation land, voiced her often-repeated charges that officials acted in secret to sell the town-owned property.

Her comments brought former selectman Tim Finan to the meeting, saying he was watching it on television, waiting for the Red Sox game to begin.

Addressing Fournier, he said her successful campaign last spring to defeat a selectmen’s warrant article shows that local government is working the way it should. The warrant article would have allowed the town to sell gravel and other earth resources from the property.

"This town is open and transparent – Suzanne, you know that," he said. "You got involved and you beat it. There is no old-boy network. That’s not true at all."

In regard to Brox, what has not been emphasized enough, Finan said, is its potential tax value, which Milford is in desperate need.

Stoneyard, Inc., the Littleton, Mass. company that would occupy about 93 acres, is expected to bring in at least $60,000 a year in property tax revenue.

Infrastructure – roads, sewers and water connections – paid for by the nonprofit Monadnock Development Corporation – will make the rest of the 120-acre northern section of the town-owned property attractive to other companies. The board signed a purchase and sales agreement with Monadnock last month and the nonprofit will sell it to Stoneyard.

Finan said Milford is at a crossroads and will eventually reach a point where its quality of life will suffer, because tax revenue is not keeping up with the costs to run the town.

"It’s a great place to raise a family, but we absolutely don’t have a tax base to sustain this," he said. "Our roads and bridges are literally crumbling" and they will take millions of dollars to fix. "We’re not Rye, we don’t have $4 million houses" to tax.

Moreover, he said, the Brox property is ideal for industry and is an unlikely conservation area, bisected as it is by Route 101, and with the state planning a highway exit, he said.

"It’s not the case that we’re paving paradise and putting up a parking lot," referring to the old Joni Mitchell song.

Dan Ayotte of the Recreation Commission, said he too had been watching the meeting at home, and he expanded on that theme.

"I mountain bike" at Brox, he said, and "I see no beauty. I see … a dumping ground … Because this group decided a couple of puddles need protecting" the town is not able to go foreward with plans for sports fields. He was referring to Fournier’s group known as the Brox Environmental Citizens.

It is not fair to say town officials are involved in back-room deals, he said, calling them "upstanding citizens who work tirelessly."

Brox Environmental Citizens has petitioned selectmen to put the sale of the 93 acres on the March ballot. Selectmen say they have all the authorization they need, because a large majority of voters said yes to selling the northern, industrial half in 2001 and again in 2011.

Development at Brox can and will be sensitive to the environment, they said, citing the natural areas around Heron Pond School, the Department of Public Works building and the wastewater treatment plant.

At selectmen’s previous meeting in August, Fournier gave officials a petition signed by more than 100 people asking that the land sale be on the town warrant. Residents expressed fears about a potential Superfund site, which brought a strong reaction from selectmen, who said present-day environmental regulations will prevent pollution.

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