Why is public review law not considered in Brox land sale?
To the Editor:
I read recent articles "Town Has Buyer for Brox Land" (July 24) and "Brox Property Sale Defended" (July 30) with great interest. It is clear that the Board of Selectmen has the right to sell the northern portion of the Brox property, an authority granted to them through town-passed warrant articles initially in 2001 then re-authorization in 2011. The town’s adoption in 2010 of state law RSA 41:14-a, interestingly, also gives blanket authority to sell certain types of land, including those at Brox. The authority of the BOS to sell the Brox property is not in dispute here.
What is in dispute is why the 2010 town law, which voters approved 1,285 to 653 and that regulates the public process leading up to the sale, is not being applied in the present sale of Brox property to the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation. To my thinking, the authorization to sell and the public review process are two different issues governed by two different warrant articles that I wish to clarify in this letter.
The July 30 article reports that, according to the town attorney, the 2011 warrant article "supersedes" the 2010 town law that governs the acquisition and sale of all town land and buildings. In my view, the 2010 town law actually reaffirmed the selectmen’s right to sell town land, including land at Brox. It also spells out in clear detail the public review process that is to be followed in such sales.
To be clear, the town adopted the RSA one full year prior to the 2011 reauthorization. In fact, the 2011 reauthorization does not explicitly state or even imply that it "supersedes" the 2010 town law. In the absence of such exemption, there is no legal reason, as far as I know, for supposing that the 2011 "authorization-to-sell" is exempt from the public review process mandated by the 2010 town law. What does the 2010 town law mean, if it is not to be applied to the sale of town land going forward from 2010?
I encourage all Milford citizens to take a close look at this important town law and to judge for themselves whether or not it applies to the proposed sale of Brox land in 2015 (see, "Laws and Rules" at nh.gov). While I’m not a lawyer, I think the plain language of the RSA speaks for itself.
I can appreciate why the selectmen do not want to implement a public review process. It would require the BOS to submit the proposed sale to public scrutiny that could disrupt its plans for a speedy sale. There would be Planning Board and Conservation Commission reviews, plus two public hearings where citizens of Milford would have the opportunity to provide their input on the sale. There is also the possibility that 50 registered voters would put the sale up to a town vote.
A look at the single proposed industry that the Selectmen want to bring onto the Brox property (see stoneyard. com) suggests that it will be a noisy, dusty business that likely includes the excavation of rocks or the unearthing, washing, and storing of stones on site. Harmful dust particles and loud noise might impact surrounding landowners and Heron Pond Elementary School.
Additionally, bringing an environmentally destructive industry onto an environmentally sensitive site is, in my view, an ill-conceived plan that will have a negative environmental impact on the surrounding wetland complex and overlooks the broader social, political, and ecological considerations and alternatives that need to be brought to the bargaining table for the common good of Milford.
Consider, for example, the common good that would result, including the substantial economic benefits that would accrue to town businesses and not a just a select one, if this environmentally-sensitive and ecologically-rich property documented in the town’s recent Natural Resource Inventory were instead reserved for conservation by the town’s Conservation Commission – a proposal made by the chair of the commission on May 26.
Imagine the psychological and physical benefits that would accrue to the Milford community, as a whole, if the Brox property were conserved for ecotourism, wildlife watching and citizen leisure, recreational and educational use – similar to the benefits resulting from Nashua’s praiseworthy decision to conserve their gem called Mine Falls for the present and future enjoyment of its citizens. Milford’s citizens could achieve a similar value-fulfillment by preserving the natural heritage of our Brox property lands and Heron Pond wetland complex.
Such an important and impactful sale under consideration by the Selectmen warrants a public review of the sale process.
PAUL F. CUNNINGHAM