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125 Main Street, Suite 200
Littleton, NH 03561
Phone: 603.444.3996
Fax: 603.444.1703

Jun 28, 2017

Public Hearing Minutes - June 28,2017


TOWN OF LITTLETON
NOTICE OF A PUBLIC HEARING
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28, 2017, 4:30 PM
OPERA HOUSE TOWER ROOM
2 UNION STREET, LITTLETON, NH

RSA 41:14-a

Present:  Town Manager Andrew Dorsett, Chairman Schuyler W. Sweet, Vice Chairman Franco Rossi, Selectman Milton T. Bratz, Executive Secretary Ceil Stubbings

Others Present:  Bill Nichols, Kim Delutis, Dorothy Corey, Rudy Gelsi, Chad Stearns, Ralph Hodgman, Bruce Hadlock, Ron Bolt, Robert Blechl, Tom Clardy, Val Poulson, Mary Edick, Tom Alt, Kathleen Paradic

Chairman Sweet called the public hearing to order at 4:30 PM.

Pledge of Allegiance

Sweet stated the board was here to listen to testimony from the public.  There were not there to discuss, argue or render opinions.  Everything said will be recorded and will be part of their decision.  The board will make a decision sometime after the public hearing scheduled for July 10th.  

Rudy Gelsi was the first to speak.  Gelsi said he was at the Conservation Committee meeting the day before yesterday.  They were talking about the piece of land has a serious issue to develop because of problems with the land.  The chairman of the committee had a letter but he would not give him a copy of the letter.  He gave a copy to the Town Manager.  This is problematic because it is a tax issue.  If we sell it for one dollar, eventually there will be infrastructure.  Gelsi said it is his opinion that eventually the taxpayers will have to pay.  Gelsi said he contacted an attorney in Concord that represents a committee that he belongs to.  Gelsi asked if any citizen can buy this property for more than a dollar.  Gelsi said he wants to make an offer to buy that property.  He would like the board to take it into consideration.  He would like an answer if possible.  Gelsi said he is very serious to buy that piece of land. 

Ralph Hodgman said that according to the paper if the board makes this sale there is no cost to the Town.  But there is no money coming into the Town either.  What LIDC talks about is years down the road.  They said they may be able to put a business in there and they be able to collect taxes.  In the meantime the property is worth $89,000 and we are going to give it away to a company for a dollar.  That land is not going to give anything back to us for a long time to come.  Hodgman said he is against it.  That property should be put up for sale to anyone that wants to buy it.  Even if you only get a buck for it at least someone would be paying the taxes on it.  Hodgman said the letter from the Conservation Commission said it may have serious issues for development.  As you drive down Meadow Street and you look up at the hilltop, you can only really see one building right now.  If we put a huge development on that land all you’re going to see is buildings and all of those nice woods cleared off.   He does not think that is good for tourists to only be able to see a great big building.  He is against the sale of this property for one dollar to LIDC.  He’s not against the sale of it but if we sell it to the LIDC they are just going to sit on it and we won’t get any revenue back for years and years to come.  We are in an economic crisis right now where we cannot find people to work in Littleton.  Brien Ward even said we have over fourteen hundred jobs right now in the Littleton area that we cannot fill.  Even if they bring in another company in three or four years, this economic crisis like this usually goes for ten years.  For the next ten years we are not going to have enough people to put in another business.  They can’t fill the jobs they have now.  It makes no sense right now to give that property away and not get any taxes back on it.  They are not going to do anything with it for quite some time to come.  He is against the sale of it to a company that is not going to be able to pay the Town taxes.  His reason for this is the Town tax rate. We just took a significant increase to the tax rate.  He just read in the paper the other day the elementary school wants to build a new school.  That is going to be about fifty million dollars that the taxpayers in this Town will be responsible for about half of it.  That is going to increase our tax rate.  I think we have more significant things to think about and the elementary school than selling a piece of property for a dollar and not getting taxes on it. 

Bruce Hadlock said he attended the Planning Board meeting he is here to find out what covenants you are putting on the sale of this property.  You don’t sell a piece of property without putting covenants on it.  The Planning Board did not come up with anything and they didn’t discuss it.  They didn’t come up with covenant to put into the deed.  Covenants are put into it to protect the Town of Littleton.  It should be discussed and implemented.  He came here to find out what the covenants would be.  Hadlock said the board has not done any of that.  Sweet said they have not decided to sell it yet, how could they determine any covenants.  Hadlock said if you are having a hearing here, we should be able to ask the stuff on it.  Even if you do decide to sell it we as the public are entitled to know what covenants are going to be placed on it.  The selectmen are the ones voting to do this and the covenants should be addressed prior to the sale.  People put covenants on all kinds of land.  It should be coming from the Planning Board.  You have a piece of property that is assessed at $89,000.  If you decide to sell it for a dollar, LIDC should have to sign a note for the difference of the dollar and the $89,000 so that the taxpayers would recover the money upon the time that they sell it.  It could be without interest.  What happens is when they sell the property in the future, they end up paying the taxpayers back.  Sweet said the note is Hadlock’s idea of one of the covenants.  Hadlock said it should be.  Sweet thanked him.  Hadlock said it would recapture the money if they ever sell it.  He believes these covenants should be addressed ahead of time.  He is not in favor of necessarily selling it.  The last time he was at a meeting you had an offer from someone who was represented by an attorney.  He was offering more money than a dollar.  You people have a fiscal responsibility to get the maximum amount of money on behalf of what it is.  You cannot ignore that responsibility.  So if someone else has already offered to buy it you have to at least acknowledge the fact.  It was his understanding that the attorney had made the offer and were willing to put additional things into it.  He does not mind if it is sold to LIDC.  Covenants should be attached to it and a note should be signed.  Hadlock told Sweet that he believes he is on the Board of Directors to the LIDC.  Hadlock told Sweet he could not vote on this because it would be a conflict of interest.  He told Sweet he needs to excuse himself from it completely.  Hadlock said if you are going to put it out there to sell to somebody, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to go to LIDC.  You need to represent the taxpayers of the Town and getting the most for it.  You still have the fiscal responsibility and not give something away for a dollar. 

Sweet asked Chad Stearns if he would like to speak.  Chad said he would like to decline at this time but might wish to speak later.

Tom Alt said that Calvin Coolidge once said it is hard to improve on silence.  Tom said he was speaking on the point of view of the Conservation Commission.  The committee actually walked over the property.  What happens in so many instances, not only in this Town but all over the state is when there is a group that wants to talk about any kind of project they look at a tax map and it is a two dimensional piece of paper.  It would take a magician to decide whether any kind of development would be possible without actually getting out onto the ground.  Five of us travelled the property.  Alt wanted to point out that for the natives in the room, many remember when there was no industrial park.  It’s all river bottom land and gravel deposits.  So far that is what LIDC has had to work with.  This piece of land does not represent that kind of terrain.  Alt said he wouldn’t spend $89,000 on that piece of property.  It’s very adverse terrain, it is very steep and wet.  It’s wet in enough areas that it definitely would propose a problem for development.    We feel it would pose a serious challenge to any proposed development.  Alt said that having been on the Conservation Commission for quite a few years now, and having seen a lot of development plans come through we are not confident enough to say this land is undevelopable. 

Ron Bolt asked if the existing Industrial Park is fully occupied now.  Sweet said the board could not answer that.  Chad Stearns said that in terms of buildings the New England Wire has about half they are looking to rent but they also have long term plans.  In terms of property that they own and zoned industrial are either not developable or in conservation.  Stearns said they really have no property left.  Bolt said his comment goes to the point of the RSA is that he has been on both sides of the pros and cons of the RSA.  It gives the selectmen a lot of flexibility in the sale of land.  It’s gone back and forth, we’ve voted it in and we have voted it out.  When he was a selectman he was naturally in favor of it.  One of the compelling arguments was that if someone came in and made a fantastic offer on a piece of land you would have to say thank you and come back in eleven months.  At that time we could tell you if the voters approved it or not.  That was the selling point to give the flexibility to the selectmen.  In all of the discussions on the pros and cons of the RSA it was never his understanding that the spirit of the RSA was to sell a piece of land for a dollar.  To him that is not what the RSA is about.  For that reason he thinks that is not in the spirt of the RSA is opposed to it. 

Tom Clardy said he is opposed to selling the land for a dollar.  He thinks it has a fair market value and we should sell it for the fair market value.  He does understand that economic development is a side of this to get industry in here over time and increase the tax base.  The industry that comes in is going to be for a profit and they are going to be making money off of it.  If it is buildable and if it is not buildable he does not know why we would sell it.  What value does it have if it is not buildable?  He has concerns that there is something about the land the sale of would make it easier for re-zoning. He sees this as a step which makes it easier for LIDC to re-zone the land.  If it is not buildable why do they want it and if it is not buildable why don’t we just put it into conservation as a Town?  He has many questions as to why we would want to do it in this way.  If we were to sell it we could use the money to help with the school.  Sweet wanted to clarify something for Mr. Clardy, this property and others were approved in 2014 by a six to one margin at Town Meeting to be sold.  Because of a technicality and a screw up by our legal firm, the right of way was left out.  That is why we are back to do it over again.  This is not a new idea. 

Mary Edick said she was really disappointed that the meeting is being held at 4:30.  She hopes that in the future you would consider public hearings which are for the public, that they be held a little later, for instance six o’clock.  But this is to hear from the public and people are working.  She would also like to state that if Selectman Sweet is on the board of the LIDC that he recuse himself.  She thinks that is important and that this is an important enough issue and we want the transparency.  Her husband said he would like to see and hear Sweets comments because they are sincere and intelligent.  Edick said she wondered if all three of the selectmen were going to walk the property because she thinks it is an important part of this.   She recently was at the transfer station and she has two concerns.  One is the pile of crushed glass looks like it is in the right of way.  The burn pit also looks like it is in the pathway.  She wondered if the board has considered where those would go.  The crushed glass is an important asset to this community.  She does not know how much money it brings in, it probably could be used for the road.  It could also be used in other parts of the Town and it is a cost savings.  Edick asked if there was enough room on the property that has the transfer station on it area to put that.  We figure it is about four acres that the glass and burn pit take up.  The cost of moving them could be in the cost of the property.  Edick said that is a cost they need to take into consideration.  In the history of the LIDC has paid for the properties they acquired in the past.  Her question is why is it not the case now.  They have gotten grants and other places to get their money to buy these pieces of property.  She would really like to know why this piece of property is not following that trend.  She would also like to know who is going to pay for all of the infrastructure.  The road, the sewer, the electric, will that be paid for by the people who buy the property or will the Town have to pay for it.  Her other concern is if LIDC pay a dollar for this property and then when they go to sell it and they make a profit on it, what happens to that money.  Maybe some of that money should come back to the Town. 

Sweet said he had counted three people who came in after they started a signup sheet to speak.  Sweet asked them if they would like to speak. 

Kim Delutis said that she is against the sale of this land for a dollar for all the reasons stated.  She would like to add that she believes there are sixteen parcels in the industrial park that are unused which is a little over 200 acres. 

Sweet asked if anyone else would like to speak.

Dorothy Corey said she is a member of the Conservation Commission and she had also walked the land.  We as a Conservation Commission have been looking for a parcel of land that we could use as a Town forest.  A lot of Town’s have that.  Littleton is a pretty big Town but we have very little land for the public to just walk on.  As we went to look at the land we had on hiking clothes.  Someone who is new to the area said “oh you’re going hiking, I didn’t know there were more trails.”  They said they had walked all of the other ones but it would be great if there were another trail.  We thought it would be great if there were another trail.  As we walked up there were some huge boulders and there were some caves, it was a beautiful piece of land.  Not everyone gets in their cars and hike the big mountains like she does.  They want the family to be able to go out in the evening and hike.  We might as well take this land that the Town owns and make it into a Town forest.  The Conservation Commission could even give some money to the Town if that would make a difference.  They could have another piece of land that they could monitor and make the trails.  The whole Town could enjoy it.  It would be better than having another piece of land that industry could build on when it seems like there are other possibilities. 

Sweet said he would now listen to people with new information.  Everything else you said before has been recorded so we don’t need to hear it again. 

Ralph Hodgman wanted to make a comment.  He said that Sweet made the comment that in 2014 the Town voted to allow the selectmen to sell that piece of property.  He just had this discussion with Brien Ward.  Hodgman said the point that he brought up and Ward had to agree is that the article never said to sell it for a dollar and it never said to sell it to LIDC.  It said to sell it for a nominal amount.  A nominal amount isn’t a dollar and it isn’t $20,000.  A nominal amount is something that can be agreed upon by the selectmen.  It was never agreed to sell it for a dollar or to the LIDC. 

Bruce Hadlock said the board needs to analyze what is called mitigation.  The Town of Littleton has had to use mitigation in the past.  The most recent one is where the dump is.  We could not close the dump without mitigating it.  The mitigated the property back where the sewer plant was.  That meant they took that off from any sale or development.  Hadlock said that if you use it for what Dot was talking about you could always use it for mitigation.  The community can use it for mitigating purposes.  That mitigating process is a very important thing for the community.  Sweet said they are familiar with that and they actually did a fair amount with the FedEx building.  Sweet asked if anyone else would like to speak again.

Tom Clardy said he would just like to add that he hopes the board would consider using the land for conservation.  He would pledge $1,000 of his money to support whatever the Conservation Commission needs to help accomplish that.  When he looks at conservation in other Town’s we are so far down.  He moved here because it is such a beautiful area and he will do his part to keep it that way. 

Sweet said he wanted to address one of Mary’s remarks and he is not sure if it is legal, but if you can’t make a public hearing, send a letter to the Town to the attention of the Town Manager.  If it is not illegal, we will consider that when we make our decision.  Sweet asked Robert Blechl if he could get that out in his article for the Caledonian.  Channel 2 was not here today.  If people have something new, particularly something new that has not already been said we would love to hear it. 

Someone asked why it is scheduled at 4:30.  Sweet said it is because it is supposed to be part of a board meeting which is scheduled for 5:00.  Sweet said it does not mean it couldn’t change.  A few weeks ago we tried running one in the morning and that didn’t work either.  That was done because of a selectmen’s conflict.  This is because this is when we normally do it.  Sweet said they will consider other times.  Unfortunately these hearings have already been noticed for this particular issue.

Ron Bolt asked if Channel 2 was supposed to be here.  Sweet said he did not know why there were not here.  Bolt said that is unfortunate because attendance is pretty light and it is an important issue.  Sweet said there may be an issue, there was a ceremony at the learning center yesterday, they were supposed to be there but they didn’t show.  Bolt said he would like an exact answer on the occupancy of the Industrial Park before the next hearing.  Sweet told Bolt that he would have to go the LIDC to get that answer.  Kim Delutis said they had an appraisal report.  Bolt asked Sweet why he was not troubled by the two drastically different answers.    Sweet said no.  Bolt asked him why he didn’t want that resolved.  He thought that part of the reason you were in support of this is that the Industrial Park us full and we have to expand.  Sweet said he would not publicly resolve it at this time.  What he might say is an opinion based on someone else’s answer.  Sweet said we are here for input we are not hear to be grilled for answers.  Bolt said he thought the board would be fully informed on all of the issues before they vote on it.  Franco Rossi said it was a fair statement the fact that we don’t have the answer today does not mean we won’t be asking for the answer.  Sweet said the two answers were that there is land available and the other that a lot of the land is not buildable.  Milton Bratz said the issues with Channel 2 is that there have been staffing changes. 

Tom Alt wanted to add one little idea.  He knows that some people think there is land left in the industrial park and some think there isn’t.  Again we come back to looking at a piece of land on a flat piece of paper on a map.  We don’t see what it is really like.  He thinks boots on the ground answers a lot of these questions.  Unless you do that you just throw things back and forth at each other.  Also mitigation can work both ways.  If you kept that piece of land, and something like Dorothy’s idea.  If it were used for a development and it impacted wetlands, then the developer would have to mitigate the impact to the wetlands.  The DES allows mitigation in different forms.  Similar to when they had to put in new wetlands behind Lowes.  Sometimes it just requires a cash payment.  This is hypocritical but they say give us the money and fill in the swamp.  That happens a lot in this Town depending on the size of the project.  When that money gets deposited it does not come to the Town of Littleton.  It goes into a fund that covers a river in Whitefield to the Waits River in Bradford, Vermont.  So Littleton’s development projects let’s say generated $200,000 in mitigation payments. So some little Town in that whole district such as Piermont, New Hampshire who might not have even had a development project can apply for those funds for a certain project.  That is something you need to know about.  Just because a company pays for mitigation it does not mean Littleton will get the funds. 

Sweet asked if anyone else would like to speak.

Kathleen Paradic just wanted to be on record that she is against selling this piece of land.
She wanted to know if the Town has ever sold another property for just a dollar in the past. Sweet said he was sure it happened in the past.  She then asked if it was on the ballot or at a meeting.  Sweet said he was not sure. She asked Sweet if he could get that information before the next hearing so that she could ask the question again.  Sweet said they would get the information. 

Sweet asked if there were anyone else with public input. 

Mary Edick wanted to go on the record that she is opposed to the sale of this property for one dollar.  There being no futher public input, Sweet adjourned the public hearing at 5:20 PM.

Below is the public hearing notice:

The Town of Littleton Board of Selectmen proposes to sell land identified as 1213 Mt. Eustis Road (Tax Map 99, Lot 46) to the Littleton Industrial Development Corporation for $1.00.  The land at 1213 Mt. Eustis Road is a 41.96 acre parcel with a 60-foot right-of-way access to Mt. Eustis Road on land owned by the Town (which the Town’s transfer station is located on).  This sale carries no cost to the Town. 

As a “housekeeping item,” the Town of Littleton Board of Selectmen also proposes to exchange easements with the Littleton Industrial Development Corporation over the Town’s parcel of land with the transfer station (Tax Map 99, Lot 17).  LIDC currently owns the parcel identified as Map 102, Lot 7, which includes a right-of-way over “Old Daly Farm Road”.  This road has changed locations on portions of Lot 99-17 based on a plan approved by the Planning Board in 2014.  The Select Board proposes to give LIDC a right-of-way over the new road location in exchange for LIDC releasing any claim to the old easement in the old road location.  These conveyances carry no cost to the Town.

According to RSA 41:14-a, a process authorized by Article 4 at the March 2016 town meeting, the proposed sale requires the review of the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission followed by two public hearings at the Board of Selectmen’s meetings, which are scheduled as follows:

June 6, 2017: Planning Board Review/Recommendation

June 12, 2017: Conservation Commission Review

June 21, 2017: Conservation Commission Review of physical location

June 26, 2017: Conservation Commission Review/Recommendation

June 28, 2017: 1st Public Hearing, Opera House Tower Room, 4:30 PM

July 10, 2017:  2nd Public Hearing, Community Center Heald Room, 4:30 PM

Select Board Vote:  Date to be determined at a later date