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

Nov 14, 2017

Public Hearing LIDC Transfer of Property Minutes 11-14-17


TOWN OF LITTLETON
NOTICE OF A SECOND PUBLIC HEARING
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 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 Rossi, Selectman Milton Bratz, Executive Secretary Ceil Stubbings, Attorney Jae Whitelaw (Mitchell Group)

Others Present:  Chad Fillion (Channel 2), Ed Hennessey, Chad Stearns, Mary Edick, Kim Delutis, Rudy Gelsi, John Scott, Robert Blechl (The Caledonian), Jason Roshak (The Courier), Ralph Hodgman, Sean Dodge, Jim McMahan, Jonathan Evans, Tony Ilacqua, Ron Bolt, Bruce Hadlock, Steve Kelley, Diane Cummings, Brien Ward, Greg Eastman, John Scott, Kevin Lowe, Barry Lunderville, Val Poulson, Carrie Gendreau, Dave Ernsberger

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

Sweet read the hearing notice.  We are continuing public input.  The comments from the first hearing were recorded into the record.  The comments made at this public hearing will also be put into the record.  The decision will be made at a regularly scheduled board meeting to decide the matter.  There were two unanswered questions from the last public hearing.  One of the questions asked why was the right-of-way altered.  The reason was the old route was not sufficient for safe passage.  Sweet said the second question was if he had a conflict of interest by being on the board of the LIDC.  Sweet stated he did not have a conflict and he was no longer on the board.  He is also no longer a member, and that was effective on August 28th.  With those questions being answered Sweet continued with the public input. 

Chad Stearns wanted to dispel a few rumors that were out there.  There was a report earlier in the year about two hundred acres of land that the LIDC owns.  They do not own the two hundred acres.  They are zoned industrial, and we only own a fraction of the developable land.  Roughly seventy-five acres are owned by LIDC. Of that 43.1-acres are in conservation for mitigation purposes.  Another 3.7-acres are odd shaped small lots that cannot be developed on.  We do have a 24-acre lot above Rotobec Drive, which is full of ledge.  It is feasible for a very small building.  It is prohibitive to blast through the ledge.  There is a 5.6-acre lot that we own that is between Burndy and Interstate 93.  It's about fifty feet wide and goes back thousands of feet.  It is very narrow, and you could not house any building on it.  Stearns said he did some research on the 2014 vote.  In 2014 it was an overwhelming vote to sell the land.  It does say in the warrant article itself:  "for industrial development."  Also at the budget hearing and the deliberative session, it was brought up the land would be transferred to LIDC for industrial development and a nominal fee.  At both meetings, Bruce Hadlock stated the Town needs to get money for this.  Then Brien Ward would say no, you have to do this.  It was very clear this property was going to LIDC for development.  Stearns said the unemployment rate is very low right now.  Everyone knows we have high times and low times.  Sterns said he does not want to wait until the unemployment rate gets to 10% and then start to think about doing something.  We need to plan for the future.  The jobs that LIDC brings in are careers.  He has a lot of classmates that are working two and three jobs right now to support their families.  The industrial park provides jobs with good pay and benefits.

Jim McMahon attended the last public hearings and was present to listen to what is being presented.  He also wanted to ask the board to consider the abutter's concerns.  The board should consider conditions.  He thinks if there is a middle road here, it may alleviate the situation.  Not everyone is going to be happy.   

Rudy Gelsi said he attended the other meetings and spoke then.  His main concern is taxation.  Gelsi gave the board a report from 2003 to 2016.  Everybody talks about how the Industrial Park gives to the Town.  From 2003 to 2016 just one time the taxes went down.  The LIDC does nothing for the citizens of the Town. Seventy-five people who work in the Industrial Park they are from Vermont.  If you sell that piece of land for a dollar, we the taxpayer are going to have to pay for it.

Carrie Gendreau started off by saying that someone once said you have to dig the well before you get thirsty.  It is very important to continue to look forward.  She hears from some people now after being on the Northeast Chamber and now on the Littleton Chamber.  People from the Vermont side now say they could kick themselves for not having Walmart come to Town.  At the time they probably thought it was the right thing to do.  When looking back in their rearview mirror, it would have been the best decision.  She thinks we should find a way tow together.  Not a compromise.  It should be a collaboration.  She appreciates the homeowners care about their property.  She would like to see a business plan for growth, and she would like to see the homeowners' opinions as well.  Maintaining the beauty of the land is also important. 

Greg Eastman wanted to address the sale for one dollar.  When Genfoot wanted to expand they were looking all over New Hampshire and Vermont to expand and consolidate their operations.  King Covey brought up that Littleton owned this piece of land that is zoned industrial.  The lot would accommodate the size building they were looking for (100,000 sq. ft.) It ended up being (140,000 sq. ft.) for manufacturing and warehouse needs.  Horizon did the study on where the building would be situated.  Given its topography and wetlands, meant there would be a very long road to the building.  High construction and infrastructure costs were taken into consideration.  The idea was the Town would sell this property to LIDC for a dollar, and we would turn around and sell the property to Genfoot for a dollar because they were facing very high infrastructure costs.  It was so important to us and is today if they ever do expand we have the solution to retain them.  We did this with Tender when they wanted to expand.  Through the kindness of Val Poulsen, Poulsen moved his building so that Tender could build where they are now.  We try to work in partnerships.  That is where the dollar came from.  We had an agreement with Tender to sell them that property for a dollar plus any of LIDC's costs to make that transaction happen.  LIDC has been a very good steward of the Industrial Park from the 1970's when it was started.  When the old factories left, we needed a lot of jobs, and this was a very good idea.  The EDA thinks highly of this park they paid half of the costs to acquire to buy and develop it.  It has been done with Town, partnerships, state and federal organizations.  We are about job creation.  We know the unemployment rate, and we know it is not going to last forever.  We need to develop commercial and industrial space.  He is concerned about the taxes and the burden of the cost being transferred to the resident taxpayer.  We need to expand to protect our tax base.  He requests the board to honor the vote of article 17 from 2014 Town Meeting.  

Kim Delutis thanked Sweet for providing the details of his resignation from the LIDC.  Although she still thinks it is much too close for this to not be a conflict of interest.  It was a month after the first meetings.  She would just like him to make sure the vote he makes on behalf of the Town is not self-serving.  Another question that has not been answered was whether or not you have sold land for a dollar in the past.  Sweet said what the board did find out was that the properties were sold for a minimum amount based on the transfer tax stamps.  It does not say one dollar, but it does say for the minimum amount.  He recalls seeing several of those.  Rossi asked Eastman if Genfoot was sold for the dollar.  Eastman said it was the proposal, but it never came to fruition. Delutis said this issue is not about our property.  This is not the same issue as article 2 was.  This land is zoned industrial.  She is fine with that it is about giving it away for a dollar as a gift.  There have been offers made more than $80,000.  Why would we want to give 43-acres of unusable land because the conservation commission has deemed it undevelopable?  You are supposed to take their comments into consideration.  That was made clear at the June 28th meeting. Let’s find better spots.

Chad Stearns wanted to answer the question about one dollar.  The last time that transaction happened it was related to the Coin Company.  The Town sold land to the LIDC so that we could then allow the Coin Company to move and to expand.  They currently pay $100,000 in property taxes.  Stearns went on to say it might have been a dollar vs. the eighty thousand dollars, but it is an investment that has paid off very well.  Delutis answered that is fantastic, congratulations LIDC what a great deal.  Is this land that a huge building could be built on?  Are there any buyers lined up.  Eastman said no.  Eastman said it is developable. Delutis who said it was developable when the Conservation Commission said it is not.  Eastman said Horizon Engineering did the study.  Delutis put out once again what Dorothy Corey from the Conservation Commission said at the first hearing.  It was said the Town could be making some money off this land by making it into a town forest. Tom Clardy then offered to donate $1,000 of his money to support the Conservation Commission. 

John Scott said he is all for development and jobs.  This is a separate issue.  This for the Town giving you the permission to sell land and not give it away.  We could use the money for a new dump truck or a police officer.

Fred Chichim is the branch manager for Burndy in Littleton.  He hopes a solution can be found that meets all the needs.  We need something that will bring more young couples to the area.  At his plant, the average age is forty-nine, and the average length is twelve years.  That means he has an aging demographic that will be leaving over the next ten years. He does not want to be a St. Johnsbury in twenty.  St. Jay looks like it was a nice town.  We need to adapt to the times to avoid that from happening. 

Sean Dodge said the Coin Company acquired land for a dollar.  Did that get voted at Town Meeting or did the board give it to them?  Chad Stearns said it was voted on at Town Meeting twice.  Once in December and once in March.

Kevin Lowe from Secure Network Services spoke next.  He bought the building in December 2011.  The software and support companies are growing.  They can make more money in Boston, but they come up here for the quality of life.  He hired five people that previously worked at McDonald's and other chains where they were making twelve to thirteen dollars an hour.  Those same people are now making $45,000 to $65,000 per year.  We employ over fifty people, and the average salary is over $65,000.  He has five more young Littleton people in the pipeline, and if they progress the way they should, they will be able to buy a house and raise a family in the community.  We need more buildings ready to go to take on the young and upcoming businesses.

Dave Ernsberger said he had no additional comments.  His focus from the first day he arrived here is that getting involved in the community helps build the tax base.  He feels the development of the Industrial Park is a very key step in that direction. 

Tony Ilacqua asked if this hearing is the last one where there was a separate hearing on the right-of-way.  Sweet said yes.  Ilacqua said he would like to speak then.

Bruce Hadlock said he still has a problem with what you people have done.  He still hasn't figured out how you get to a hearing and giving it away for a dollar.  You had to have had a meeting to put it together to have a hearing to sell it or one dollar.  He believes the Town should be getting the fair market value.  His concern is that when you have a public hearing people don't listen to it, and you decide to make up whatever you want to make up on it.  You had a conflict of interest, and you got out of it.  It does not mean that you cannot be put back on the board within an hour after you vote on it.  Hadlock thinks Sweet should recuse himself from the vote 100%.  It should be put out in front of the Townspeople to vote.  You are not just representing the community; you are representing outside business that comes into the community.

Jason Reimers is an attorney representing Tom Clardy who could not be here tonight because of a long-standing obligation.  He would like to echo Mr. Hadlock's comments that Mr. Sweet recuse himself because of your fiduciary responsibility both the LIDC and to the Town.  They create a conflict of interest and he does understand that he stepped off the LIDC board.  That conflict of interest existed while this matter was being considered. He also had a few legal issues he wanted to talk about.  The 2014 Warrant Article did not authorize the board to give this property away.  A transfer for a dollar is not a sale.  The IRS would classify this as a gift.  The 2014 Warrant authorizes the board to sell subdivide or exchange.  None of those things are happening with this property.  It also takes exchange off the table because it states to sell.  The 2014 warrant does not authorize the current proposal.  People who voted for the 2014 article had no reason to believe the property would be given away for one dollar.  Next is the statute RSA 41:14-a, any action will be invalid on these two public hearings.  The board has not followed the hearing schedule.  Which makes tonight’s meeting an illegal meeting.  RSA 41:14-a states the hearings cannot be more than fourteen days apart. Today is the fifteenth day of the October 30th hearing.  For this hearing to be legal it should have happened yesterday.  That means any action taken on this relies on the hearings.  Any action the board takes will be challenged by the court and the Town would have to prevail that the public hearings that say fourteen days apart really means fifteen days apart.  The board has taken the position of the transfer of the property does not include lot 46. The Town adopted RSA 41:14-a in 2014 for this specific warrant article.  The warrant article was adopted by the votes.  When his client submitted his petition in the summer he was following RSA 41:14-a.  He thinks the Town’s position is a stretch.  He does not think it is supported.  All of the notices the Town posted reference RSA 41;14-a.  So the position of the Town that RSA 41;14-a does not apply has left us dumbfounded.  Town Meeting is right around the corner.  He asks the board to save on legal expenses and time in processing this or going to the superior court.  We simply ask that you let the petition play out and let the issue be resolved by the voters in March.  Mr. Clardy asked him to give the board the petition again in the hopes that the board will honor it.  He stated there was another petition which he handed off to the Town’s attorney Jae Whitelaw. 

Mary Edick said she wanted to wait to speak because much of what she had to say has already been said.  She heard comments by Mr. Lee and Mr. Eastman that relate to her point which has been stated many times.  She does not understand why it is being sold for one dollar.  Except for the one exception that Mr. Eastman brought up about the company that wanted to buy it for a dollar because the work to build on there would be very expensive.  Why should the taxpayers have to pay for it?  She recommends that something is written in that when and if the property is sold it be paid back to the Town.  It has been stated that people come here for the quality of life.  Why is there such a rush for this?  You are not going to develop it for years. 

Dave Rochfort bought a house here and owned a business.  Originally grew up in Lancaster.  In 2005 we came to a crossroad in his life.  We sold the business we had deep roots in and had the option of opening a new business in Lancaster, Manchester or Littleton.  There was no way he was going to move the Manchester.  To start my business in Littleton was an obvious choice. Surrounding Towns of Littleton are very envious of what Littleton has to offer.  He understands the concerns from both sides, but in this case, he thinks the pros of the sale outweigh the cons.    

Diane Cummings spoke of how important our tax base is.  She didn’t realize how much it can impact the taxpayers until she became a member of the Budget Committee.  You never know what the fluctuations are going to be from one year to the other.  She knows there are things to consider, but we need to continue to work on the expansion of the Industrial Park.  It not only for jobs for the taxes. 

Brien Ward provided a detailed history of the LIDC and their many accomplishments to the Town.  Brien Ward said he has not spoken to the issues for some time.  The concern he has is the failure to understand the relationship between the taxpayers and the LIDC.  At some point in time, he would like the Town and the LIDC to get together and rename it to the Town of Littleton Industrial Park.  That would be total truth in advertising.  This was a Town project, not a LIDC.  Ward went through the historical and economic investments that occurred.  The partnership has been around for forty-five years.  He was a director of the LIDC for ten years from 1994 to 2004.  LIDC has been in business for forty-five years.  He has not been a member for thirteen years and has no intention of being on it again.  The Industrial Park that we have right now is a four million dollar investment in the partnership.  The taxpayers put over a million dollars into the Industrial Park nine different times.  LIDC obtained nine grants for six million dollars.  They invested from land sales.  How is the money spent?  $400,000 was spent on land acquisition.  Three-point-six million was spent on Town-owned infrastructure, roads, water, sewer and electrical.  Who got the large share of the partnership?  The Town of Littleton.  The infrastructure that went into place at the industrial park, the two-point-six million in grants and the one million went into the infrastructure.  His second concern is the failure to understand what LIDC is.  It is a volunteer, nonprofit, this is not AHEAD, and nobody gets paid.  People have volunteered their time for forty-five years.  Please don't believe they are making a lot of money and going on trips with the money; they are volunteers.  They provide economic services to the Town of Littleton.  At no expense to the taxpayer.  They have never charged the Town a dime for all of the work they do.  Why does the LIDC hold the title for land at the industrial park?  Three reasons:  We have a Town Meeting form of government, which is wonderful in some parts but cumbersome in others.  When it comes to doing business the Town Meeting form of government is a hard thing to do.  The idea was the LIDC could respond to businesses in a timelier manner.   His second point is many of the nine grants for two point six million require a nonprofit partnership.  The last point is industrial park management.  The park management didn't happen by accident.  Ward gave an example of when FedEx was built.  Ward said every single lot had had a wetland issue.  Twenty-two acres were given as a wetland easement.  Ward said this issue was discussed at length during the 2014 budget hearing and 2014 deliberative session.  He and Bruce Hadlock have disagreed on this since then.  Upon finishing his presentation, Ward said that Littleton has been successful with the industrial park because of their ability to coexist with the park.  Ward said he supports the transfer of this land to the LIDC one hundred percent. 

Ron Bolt said he was going to break with tradition here and agree with Bruce Hadlock.  Bolt said he does not have a dog in the fight and he has nothing against the LIDC.  His point comes down to the point of what you are doing regarding RSA 41:14-a.  Bolt said we had argued this back and forth over the years.  It was voted in and back out and then again voted back in.  He always thought it was a good thing to have because it gave you a way to act on a sale between Town Meetings.  There was a procedure set up to provide input.  He thinks that what he hears tonight on the other side of the table.  With RSA 41 you are entrusting your selectmen with that authority on good faith.  That is his only point.  He does not think giving away a piece of property for a dollar is the spirit of the law.  He does not think it is the spirit of the law to give land away.  He thinks in New Hampshire it is to develop trust between the board and the people.  You might want to consider the suggestion of the people even though you may be able to do it properly and legally.  Bolt thinks the best thing to do is to put it on the ballot this coming March and let the entirety of the population make the decision.

Sweet asked if there were any other comments on the transfer of the land.  Are there any other new input on the transfer of the land? 

Ralph Hodgman wanted to emphasize these hearings in his opinion are illegal.  You took the word from your lawyer that the petition was no good because of the right-of-way.  However, the right of way is a different piece of land.  You don't need that transfer right now to use the acres or sell it.  It has nothing to do with the right of way and is separate.  You can go in easier with the right of way the way it is now. He is saying these meetings are illegal and you should go back and let the petition take place because your lawyer gave you bad information.  She should recuse herself; she shouldn't even bill the Town.  The information she gave you is not right.  You should put this on the Town ballot.  If you continue to push this thing forward, you are going to find out that these second hearings you are holding are illegal.  She gave you bad information, and you should not be listening to her.

Steve Kelley asked what Hodgman meant by illegal.

Hodgman said when they stopped the petition form from going through and had these hearings that were an illegal move.  Jae Whitelaw said her only response is that she thought we had cleared up our misunderstanding the last time because her first explanation did not do very well.  You are correct the warrant article from 2014 did not include the easement.  That is why there are two separate hearings.  One for the land transfer and the second for the easement.  Hodgman said she stopped the petition and she said herself it is two separate issues.  You stopped that petition from going forward. That petition should take precedence here. 

Sweet asked if there is anyone else who has spoken and has new information who would like to speak again that we haven’t heard before.   

Kim Delutis just wanted to say Brien Ward’s presentation was great and she wanted to say for the tenth time that she values the LIDC, this is not a bash against the LIDC.  She wanted to know how many people in the room have walked the land in question. None of the people who are for the land transfer have walked the land.  Bratz said he has been on that land years ago, he walked his dog on that land.  Delutis asked Bratz if he agreed with the Conservation Commission that the land is very adverse, steep and wet.  Sweet said they have the report from the Conservation Commission recorded.  Delutis is wondering if this is a good investment for the LIDC.  She just wants that on the record.  They have had some great investments in the past.  It seems to her that everything that Mr. Ward showed all went to vote.  They all went to vote for a nominal fee.  People knew what they were getting into.  Delutis said that all they want is to put this to a vote just like the other land transfers.  That is what the petition was asking for.  She also wanted to reiterate paying an attorney to stop us from having our right to vote is pretty appalling.  Bratz said that is not a fair statement. As soon as an attorney appears at a meeting, we are obligated as your representatives to be covered by counsel as soon as that occurred.  It initially occurred on your side when an attorney attended the meeting.  Lawyers talk to lawyers.  We don’t necessarily want to talk to an attorney because we are not trained in this area as our attorneys are sitting here and the attorneys sitting in the audience.  As soon as an attorney becomes involved, representing someone you have to have someone on your side representing you.  This is just common practice here and it has been here since day one.  Bruce Hadlock said Bratz was not correct.  Sweet told Hadlock he was out of order. 

Bruce Hadlock said you people have a fiduciary responsibility when you are making decisions on behalf of the Town.  Sweet said they are aware of that.  Hadlock said they might be aware of it, but it does not come up and is not presented.  The truth is that when you make decisions, you have to represent the whole community based on your fiscal responsibility.  You can't just throw things out and sell things for a dollar.

Rudy Gelsi wanted to comment on something Mr. Bratz said.  If you want to do something good for the corporation, why don’t you ask all the taxpayers 3,100 taxpayers?  Send a letter to everybody and see if they want to sell the property for one dollar.  That’s the way you can do some good for this Town not just talking. 

Sweet closed the hearing at 6:41 PM.  Below is the hearing notice. 









TOWN OF LITTLETON
NOTICE OF A SECOND PUBLIC HEARING
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 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 first Public Hearing was held on Monday, October 30, 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 sell the following Town Property including development rights after two duly noticed public hearings and consultation with the Town Planning Board and Conservation Commission, by 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