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 kcleveland@cabinet.com.