Court denies Brox suit

Judge rejects call for halt to building of sports fields

MILFORD – A superior court judge has denied a request for a temporary halt to the building of two sports fields on the Brox property.

Calling the town-owned property where the public works department is pre­paring ground for athletic fields "an empty, uncul­tivated and unimproved field," Judge Charles S. Temple wrote that plain­tiff David McManus has "failed to prove irrepara­ble harm" and also failed to "establish a likelihood of success on the merits."

McManus had appealed to the court for a prelimi­nary injunction, saying that by starting the fields project before residents can vote on it, "The Mil­ford Board of Selectmen is denying the legislative body its right of review of this project and capital expenditure."

McManus, of Brookfield Court, says he is a sup­porter, but not a member, of Brox Environmental Citizens, which has ap­pealed an alteration of terrain permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Services for the fields.

That appeal, the judge wrote, "clearly consti­tutes an adequate rem­edy at law for the plain­tiff," and the court won’t interfere with the legal process. He also said that Milford selectmen are "conducting a lawful and properly funded project within its legal authority."

The court held a hear­ing on the case Sept. 14, and the judge’s decision came down Oct. 14.

McManus said he is dis­appointed and will wait to see what the DES water council decides.

"It is kind of concern­ing" that selectmen are concerned about spend­ing, "and all of a sudden spend $30,000" on sports fields, he said.

A petition initiated by Brox Environmental Citi­zens in July asks that se­lectmen place the $29,000 project on the town war­rant for 2017.

McManus and Brox En­vironmental Citizens call money being spent on the fields "an unapproved capital expenditure."

The judge’s "decision does not make right what the selectmen did wrong to the habitat of endan­gered wildlife species," said Suzanne Fournier, coordinator of Brox En­vironmental Citizens.

"The selectmen did it without asking voters for permission to spend scarce dollars and occupy the time of many DPW workers for nearly five weeks."

Town officials contend that voters have approved plans for community facil­ities on the property sev­eral times over the years and point to the 2014 up­date of the Brox Commu­nity Lands Master Plan.

That plan recommends "building recreation fields along the southerly side of the existing stretch of Heron Pond Road within the next two years to help alleviate a documented shortage of recreational field space in town."

The master plan also acknowledges that these fields may be temporary and the location is des­ignated for a emergency services/fire department substation in the future.

The sports field proper­ty is in the southern half of the 270-acre Brox prop­erty, purchased in 2000 and known as community lands, for municipal uses, including a school, ceme­tery, emergency facilities and recreation.

According to the 2014 update of the Brox Com­munity Lands Master Plan, "There continues to be a demonstrated short­age of recreation field space in town.

"Of all community needs appropriate for development within the Brox community land, addressing this shortage is most immediate and should begin in 2015."

Fournier contends that no development should begin until there is a com­plete conservation plan for the property, and that sports fields damage habi­tat for threatened and endangered wildlife, the Blanding’s turtle and the Eastern hognosed snake.

Earlier this month, she filed the formal com­plaint with the state DES regarding what she called numerous violations of permit conditions for the athletic fields.