Brox land use topic of hearing
>Town faces issue of fields versus habitat
MILFORD – At a public hearing last week, town officials defended their plans to put sports fields on the Brox property, saying they will make sure the project is sensitive to environmental concerns, including the well-being of endangered reptiles.
The July 14 joint meeting of the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission was part of the review process for two multipurpose fields to be built on the site of an old gravel pit south of Heron Pond Road, near Heron Pond Elementary School. The plans are opposed by Suzanne Fournier, of Brox Environmental Citizens, who maintains the facilities are not needed and would damage the habitat of two state-endangered species, the Blanding’s turtle and hog-nosed snake.
"We will come up with an environmentally responsible design," said Town Administrator Mark Bender, who said the town has focused on environmental aspects of the plan and scheduled a meeting with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to address the issue of endangered wildlife.
About 2 acres of a defunct gravel pit would be used for the recreation fields, and the town has applied for an Alteration of Terrain permit with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
Chad Branon, an engineer with Fieldstone Land Consultants, designed the fields and gave a slide presentation about the project. He said the company would work with the state to "make sure the project is environmentally sensitive."
In response to Fournier’s often-repeated contention that his company missed wetlands when they surveyed the property, Branon said they were identified on the most recent inventory of the property.
"There was never a situation where we did not represent facts or not represent jurisdictional areas on the plan. That is not what we do," he said. "We are bound by a code of ethics. … Unfortunately, it’s easy to make accusations without understanding the history, the project’s scope and what the tasks at hand were."
Fournier objected when Planning Board Chairman Christopher Beers wouldn’t allow her to give a PowerPoint presentation, saying it wasn’t on the agenda.
"It will not look good on the record. Have a little respect for an equal board," she said, referring to the Conservation Commission, whose chairwoman had been informed about Fournier’s presentation.
"I am running this meeting, and I set the rules," said Beers, who did allow her to distribute handouts to board members.
Fournier said state law requires that endangered animals be protected from anything that would decrease their populations.
"They can’t just be shooed away like a flock of pigeons," she said. "I hope Milford will not become known as a town that infamously harmed endangered species when it could have helped them."
Along with the two reptile species, she said, the property is potential habitat for New England cottontail rabbits, which are legally protected in New Hampshire.
Conservation Commission Chairwoman Audrey Fraizer recommended that the town have a study done to understand how much habitat the wildlife is using and how they are using it.
Also speaking against the plan was resident David McManus, who said the town should make better use of its existing fields rather than spend money on new ones.
Town Recreation Director Arene Berry and two representatives from the Milford Community Athletic Association addressed that issue, talking about the need for new fields and how an ongoing shortage means current fields aren’t getting enough rest to recover from heavy use.
Sports "participation has increased exponentially," MCAA President Jason Cillo said. "There is a crying need for more space."
The two new fields are estimated to cost $29,000, with the town’s Department of Public Works doing much of the labor. They are considered temporary. Permanent fields would be built deeper into the property, which is part of the town-owned Brox Community Lands. The town might eventually build a firehouse or other facility on the site, according the Community Lands’ master plan.
Branon said the site, with its "nice sandy soils," is very conducive to fields, and that there wouldn’t be much need for land alteration.
"What we are proposing would be an improvement, and we can find a good balance" between fields and protection of the environment, he said.
Planning Board Vice Chairwoman Janet Langdell said later the board still needs to look at details, including parking and traffic safety.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.