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.