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

Oct 31, 2017

Public Hearing Sale of Property LIDC Minutes - October 30, 2017


TOWN OF LITTLETON
NOTICE OF A PUBLIC HEARING
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2017
5:00 PM
LITTLETON COMMUNITY CENTER
HEALD ROOM
120 MAIN STREET, LITTLETON, NH

Present:  Town Manager Andrew Dorsett, Chairman Schuyler Sweet, V. Chairman Franco Ross, Selectman Milton Bratz, Executive Secretary Ceil Stubbings, Attorney Jae Whitelaw

Others Present:  Chad Fillion (Channel 2), Chad Stearns, Kim Delutis, Mary Edick, Shaun Dodge, Ralph Hodgman, Rudy Gelsi, Jim McMahon, Ed Hennessey, Jason Roshak (Courier), Robert Blechl (The Caledonian),

Chairman Sweet called the public hearing to order at 5:00 PM.

Sweet provided an explanation of why they were here again.  As you know we began this process in the late spring and early summer.  We went through the first of two public hearings with input from the Planning Board and the Conservation Commissioner’s.  We then received a petition from some of the abutters that stopped the process.  Since that time the Town has retained Town Counsel and they have a different opinion as to how the process should go, and on what is proper and what is not.  Therefore we are proceeding again, however, we are starting all over again.  Anything that you said before doesn't assume that we know.  You may need to say it again to get it into the record because the record will be what we use to make our decision.  There will be a second public hearing and then a third meeting which will be a regular board meeting where we will make a decision.  The second public hearing we are holding today is in regards to the Right-of-Way.  This has to do with the sale of the land.  You were asked to sign a sheet when you came in if you would like to speak. 

Someone asked why this process was being done again.  Sweet said the reason is that there is a difference between a legal opinion.  The reason it stopped the first time had to do with the petition that basically stated this had to be decided at Town Meeting.  The opposing legal opinion stated that we can do it this way by having two public hearings and letting the selectmen decide. 

Mary Edick said that you did mention RSA 41:14-a, and it does say that a petition can be put in to be put on the ballot in March.  Her question to legal counsel is will a petition be allowed to happen again.  The second question is do you remember when the Howard property was put on a petition to change the zoning and there was an error on the petition that identified one of the properties with the wrong map and lot number.  Edick said that because of that, the petition had to be withdrawn.  She contends that Article 17 from 2014 should not because, and this is on the website too, it is quoted in Article 17 as RSA 41-11-4-a.  Edick stated there is no such RSA.  Also it also shows the property being Map 99-17.  That map and lot no longer exist.  Edick contends this is invalid.  The vote that we had in 2016 giving the board the authority to buy/sell land in her opinion that it would override the 2014 vote. 

Kim Delutis told the board that she hoped the legal issues would be taken care of before we have to go through with this all over again.  We all have better things to do than going through this again.  First of all, when over fifty petitioners are against this sale/giveaway, and you accepted the petition in July, why did you not contact the petitioner to let him know that you were going to forget about the petition and start all over again.  We didn’t even know about this until we saw it on the website.  You are not earning trust from the residents.  You say that you are going to use all of our talking points to make your decision to give that land away.  She really does not believe that.  Everything that you have done does not coincide with your words.  She is just not trusting anything that you say right now.  Her other question is if they are planning on rezoning lot 107.  She asked if they would answer the question.  Sweet said he could not answer at this time due to the fact that they have not decided to sell the land yet.  Delutis asked when they can get their questions answered.  Delutis asked if their petition is no longer valid and considered trash.  Sweet advised that the Town’s legal counsel opinion that it is not legal.  Delutis wanted to know what RSA.  Sweet said he did not know.  This is a public input session, not a question and answer session.  Delutis asked when the question and answer session would be held.  Delutis told the board she hopes they realize how unfair the process is.  We don’t know what is going on and we are doing everything legally to let you three know how we feel about this.  Sweet said she has made it very clear that she does not want a separation of the lot line for rezoning.  Sweet said that might be a condition of the sale, that there not be a separation.  Franco Rossi said that if the board decides to transfer the property it will not be the board’s decision to decide about the lot lines. That would be a decision of the new owners.  Delutis said the petition supersedes the giving away of the land.  Selling it for one dollar is not a sale, it is a gift.  Delutis remembers in July when we were talking about it and the Conservation Commission was talking about it, they said it was really unbuildable land and that it was the flume.  There is a cave in there and there are a lot of wetlands.  She can’t imagine why any business would want to build on that land or the cost and also the destruction of wildlife.  There are many other things they can do with it.  She is thinking a little mini flume that would generate income as a destination.  She also knows that there have been offers put out for a sizable amount.  Delutis also wanted to know if there is a lease in the making, is it going to bring income to the Town, is it going to reduce our taxes? 

Sweet then called on John Scott.  John said the Town can do whatever it wants with the land but it’s a shame we can’t make enough on it to buy a new dump truck or hire a new police officer for a year.  John asked if the burn pit would have to be moved resulting in more cost to get rid of our waste. 

Jim McMahon said he was mostly there to listen.  He was mostly looking to see how much income it would generate and if there would be any mitigation. 

Ralph Hodgman gave his thoughts on the matter. Hodgman said the 2014 warrant article never stated it was going to be sold for a dollar or to a nonprofit organization. The taxpayers didn’t know at the time of the vote that we were not going to get any money out of it until someone actually developed it.  He hates to say it but he feels the board has already made up their mind to sell it, otherwise, they would have let it go into a warrant article.  The people showing up here all say it is a bad idea along with the fifty people who signed the petition.  He does not want the board to sell the land for a dollar to a nonprofit organization.  He would be ok with it if LIDC paid taxes on it as long as they own it.  LIDC is the only one making out here.  When they sell they are going to make a profit. 

Chad Stearns just wanted to get some things on the record since we are doing this over.  Currently, there are over 1,500 jobs in the park and over $700,000 is paid in property taxes by the businesses.  LIDC has an excellent reputation when it comes to mitigation and job creation.  This is the North County, we don’t have big fields, and everything is a challenge.  When you look at the history the Town and the taxpayers have put in over a million dollars into the Industrial Park.  There has been almost three million in various funding from grants and other organizations.  When you talk about a great investment over the years many properties have been sold to the LIDC for a dollar.  The Littleton Coin Company is a great example, they pay over $100,000 in taxes.  In addition, there really is no more industrial land to build on in this community.  Yes, this property does present challenges but you are not going to develop all 41 acres.  We need a solution to the slow tax base growth that we are experiencing now. 

Rudy Gelsi said his main concern is taxation.  He had a list from 2006 to 2016 the Industrial Park never paid enough money to relieve the taxation in Littleton.  He had a list of the actual tax rates for the Town.  The Industrial does not reduce the taxes and it is in black and white.  He believes that selling it for a dollar is going to cost us money for the infrastructure.  LIDC is not for the middle-class people, they don’t ever get anything.  He believes the petition supersedes any law and it is in black and white. 

Shaun Dodge asked how many people signed the petition.  Sweet said he did not know the total numbers but believes it was well over fifty.  Dodge said it was a hundred twelve. There were only a couple of abutters that signed the petition.  The rest were from all over Town.  He wanted to inform the board of an attorney in Town that called the employers of a couple of people who signed the petition and tried to get them fired.  He does not think it is fair to try and increase the size of the Town.  The jobs in the Industrial Park are not high paying jobs. 

Joe Evans said the statement that it is no cost to the Town is erroneous.  He has no problem selling the property but it should be sold at fair market value.

Tony Ilacqua referred to the 2014 Warrant Article.  The article was not specific, was it always known that it was to be sold for a dollar.  Sweet said this is a public input meeting.  He does not understand the process but if we keep selling the property for a dollar like we have in the past we will be in a situation similar to what we are in now.  High taxes and infrastructure in bad shape.  He believes it should be sold at fair market value.  At some point, our wages will not be attractive and there is a cost to the Town.  Ilacqua said you can’t afford to live and work in this Town.  He would love to say he lives and works in Town. 

Sweet offered the Town Attorney Jae Whitelaw to explain why there are here again.  Jae Whitelaw said it would be helpful for her to explain the different legal views. She thinks that is why the selectmen don’t want you to leave here feeling more frustrated than you have to with the process.  The process is frustrating.  Because there are different legal opinions, between the attorney for the petitioners and herself, that has created a situation that usually happens when attorneys do not agree. The selectmen will make a decision when they decide what legal direction they want to go in.  Yes, the selectmen usually go with the advice of their attorney.  She pointed out that she does not tell them what to do, she only tells them what she thinks.  In 2014 this warrant article without the corrected reference to the RSA was presented to the voters.  The Town had not yet adopted the provisions of RSA 41:14-a.  As you all know under RSA 41:14-a the Town says the selectmen can go ahead and sell Town property.  You don’t have to come back to Town Meeting anymore.  But you have to follow the procedures that are set up in the statute.  You have to have two public hearings and the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission weigh in on it.  This was before this was adopted.  She interprets this warrant article as saying to the selectmen you need the Town’s authority to sell these properties.  You still have to follow the same procedures if you had adopted RSA 41:14-a.  You still have to have the two public hearings and the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission weigh in on it.  In her view, the sale of the land, not the right-of-way, but the sale of the land is outside of the statute of RSA 41:14-a.  It is not part of it, and that is why in her view, the petition does not stop the process of selling the land.  The selectmen’s authority to sell the land does not come under RSA 41:14-a.  It comes out of the warrant article and the Town vote.  That is how she looks at it, and her understanding from the letter that from the attorney for the petitioner’s wrote was that in her view this article was done under RSA 41:14-a and therefore the petition stops that.  That is where we have the disagreement.  Whitelaw said that as far as the right-of-way goes, the right-of-way was not included in the warrant article.  The right-of-way was proposed by the selectmen after the Town adopted RSA 41:14-a so that means it comes under RSA 41:14-a.  So a petition asking that the conveyance of the sale or the right-of-way, be done by Town Meeting would stop that process and it would go to Town Meeting.  She has a concern about the efficiency of the petition.  Her concern is that the paragraph is above the signatures that everybody read, does not mention the right-of-way, it just mentions the land.  She is concerned that it is not valid because the people who signed the petition were not thinking about the right-of-way.  They were only dealing with the sale of the land.  That is what her concern is, if you have information about anything else that might other information that was handed to people when they were asked to sign it, then that might be helpful.  Whitelaw went on the say that she could tell them when you look at a petition and you think about what is included the whole thing is about notice.  What did people think when they signed it?  This says: “We, the undersigned voters, petition the Town of Littleton to require the sale of lot tax map 99-46 to be placed on the Town warrant under NH RSA 41:14-a.”  There is nothing in there about the right-of-way.  That is her concern about the efficiency of this petition to stop the selectmen’s process of going forward under RSA 41:14-a to do the right-of-way.  If you have information that addresses her concerns, she is always open to learning things.  A citizen stated the petitioner’s lawyer is saying the exact opposite.  Do we need a judge now?  Whitelaw responded by saying hopefully not but it could lead to that.  Ralph Hodgman said the petition did not say anything about the right-of-way.  Whitelaw said her interpretation of the petition is that it only deals with the land.  Because the sale of the land goes with 2014 Article 17, and not the statute, she does not think it is effective to stop the sale of the land.  Rudy said the 2014 warrant article was not specific.  Whitelaw said she could not address what people were thinking when they voted.  What she can address is that Article 17 is to sell Town property.  It does not put any restrictions and how much it is sold for or who it is sold to.  If the voters were concerned about it, they had the option to vote for it or against it.  From the legal aspect in looking at the article, we are authorizing them to sell it. 

Sweet said he wanted to say something that Shaun Dodge almost touched on.  Because of the situation we are in, how do you resolve the two different opinions, it may well be court.  Once we had the legal opinion, anybody could sue the Town for not having the hearings.  So here we are doing it over again.  Taking all your time and ours too to try to resolve the issue.  Will it resolve it?  Whatever we decide, someone can object and carry it further.  We are trying to follow due process and we are to do it properly. 

Mary Edick asked if the board had walked this property.  She thinks they should.  She also wanted to know if there was any thought given to where the burn pit and glass pile would be relocated for the right-of-way.  Mary referenced a quote from one of the Kennedy’s (Democracy is Messy).

Kim Delutis wanted to say this is nothing against the LIDC.  LIDC is a boom for the Town.  She lives a half a mile up the road from the Industrial Park.  She has no problem with all the great businesses that are there.  She purchased her house knowing that.  We are looking at this one particular and it is leading to lot 107 which is zoned rural which is all of the abutters' view.  We fought article 2 last March because we needed to protect that mountain.  She looks at it every day, can you imagine if 140 thousand square feet of a factory was put there and razed the whole ridgeline and what that would look like for so many people.  Not to mention what that would do to the environment and the mountain itself and the runoff and the wetlands.  She is very proud that we got that vote passed so that we saved that mountain.  She is really hoping that this gift to LIDC doesn’t lead to trying to rezone that property because we have proven from an appraisal that Tom Clardy paid money for to find out that yes our property values would decrease by 25%.  Do you really want to do that to your constituents?  You are supposed to protect our property values.  That is why giving this land away, which the conservation commission has deemed as unusable, why would they want more unusable land.  She says sell it to the highest bidder and get the $80,000 for it. Conserve it and turn it into the flume. Have it as a tourist attraction.  To get into a legal battle over this, just confirms you are not listening to us.

Sweet told her we could get into a legal battle no matter the decision.  Delutis said you could just let it go to Town meeting and let the voters decide.  This whole thing does not have to happen.  Why make the residents spend money on attorneys?  It is senseless.  Sweet said he did not think that it was senseless that we are here. 

Chad Stearns said the parcel that the Transfer Station sits on is 43.66-acres.  That is ample room to move the burn pit and glass pile.  Also, the LIDC is a volunteer board. We don’t have lavish salaries or gifts of vehicles for selling land.  Any funds we do have are used as a match for finding grants.

Tony Ilacqua said it looks like everyone wants yes for an answer.  Why don’t we do a land swap?  They sell us lot 107 for a dollar and we get to keep our land beautiful. Why don’t you guys get together and figure out how it can be done.   

Sweet closed the first public hearing at 6:11 PM.  Below is the actually posted hearing notice.

 

TOWN OF LITTLETON
NOTICE OF A PUBLIC HEARING
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2017
5:00 PM
LITTLETON COMMUNITY CENTER
HEALD ROOM
120 MAIN STREET, LITTLETON, NH

The Town of Littleton Board of Selectmen proposes to sell land identified as Mt. Eustis Road (Tax Map 99, Lot 46) to the Littleton Industrial Development Corporation for $1.00.  The land at 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.  The second Public Hearing will be held on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 5:00 PM at the Littleton Community Center Heald Room.  The Board of Selectmen were authorized by Article 17, of the March 11, 2014 Town Meeting vote as shown below:

TOWN OF LITTLETON, NEW HAMPSHIRE “SECOND SESSION” MINUTES

MARCH 11, 2014

 

Sale of Town Property                                                             

Article 17.  Shall the Board of Selectmen be authorized, without further Town Meeting action, to         sub-divide, exchange and/or sell the following Town Property including development rights after two duly     noticed public hearings and consultation with the Town Planning Board and Conservation Commission, in   accordance with RSA 41:-14-a:

                                                                              Approximately

Location                                               Map/Lot            Acres                     Brief Description

1213 Mt Eustis Road                             99-17                40-50                            Vacant Land – Old Gravel Pit

                                                                                                            For Industrial Development                                                                         

Meadow Street                                      76-9                    12                  Tax Sale – Floodplain                                                                                                                            For Wetland Mitigation

 

 

354 Pleasant Street                               67-43                  .21                  Manufactured Housing lot

No Tax Impact

Recommended by Selectmen: 3-0                    Recommended by Budget Committee: 0-0

ARTICLE 17 PASSED                                                                               YES   845    NO   141

 

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