by Frank Schroth
There was a brief meeting last night between town officials, representatives of Pulte Homes, the housing construction firm with a P&S to develop the Stoughton Property, also commonly referred to as the Town Farm, and the neighbors of that property. The purpose of the meeting was not clear to this observer but the frustration of the neighborhood was.
Pulte was awarded the P&S to develop the town farm almost 4 years ago. They won the contract as they made the highest bid ($5 million) and the Board of Selectmen, acting in their capacity as the Trustees of the Governor Stoughton Trust, determined that to be the “best and highest use.” (see related post here.) Pulte has a somewhat checkered history (see related post here). The attorney general’s office took about two years to review the agreement between the town and Pulte and eventually approved it. Since approval, Pulte has been doing engineering and surveying of the land. Time has also taken to resolve an issue of possible Native American burial grounds.
At last night’s meeting, Selectmen Tom Hurley introduced Mark Comeau of Pulte who read a very short prepared statement. He said this was a contractual matter between Pulte and the Governor Stoughton Trustees and that was about all he said. He did not identify the contractual matter. Selectmen Hurley said that in conversations with Pulte it was pointed out that the 100′ buffer identified in the P&S made the homes “unsaleable.” According to residents Pulte submitted plans that reduce the buffer from 100′ to 30′. This concerns them. Though only a few took up Selectman Hurley’s invitation to speak, the Blute Conference Room was full with approximately 30 residents.
Former Selectmen and chair of the Governor Stoughton Committee, Bob Sweeney spoke first and said that in three places the P&S identified a 100′ buffer. He said that Mr. Comeau’s prepared statement “pulled down the curtain on the conversation.” Sweeney said “a contract is a contract and a P&S is a contract.” He didn’t understand why Pulte representatives would not engage with the residents to discuss the issue and attempt to find a middle ground.
Ed McNeil was highly critical of the Trustees stating that he felt they “acquiesced” to Pulte. He said he had been told that Pulte could sue the town or that a 40B might go in if they didn’t agree to the reduction in the buffer area. He reiterated Mr. Sweeney’s desire that Pulte work with the neighbors.
Jon Friedman, who said he was an attorney with extensive experience in real estate matters including lawsuits, did not see a bright future to this process. When parties “dig in’ it can become a long drawn out process with an “uncertain outcome.” He recommended that Pulte show “more respect” for the neighbors and community and “find out what they can live with.” His remarks were applauded by the residents present.
Planning Board member Mike Kelly suggested that wetlands replication might be an option. His point was that if they reviewed that option it might allow for the developer to maintain the 100′ buffer. Wetland replication is a process whereby a developer moves an area of wetlands from one point on a property to another based on land required to build on. The development being reviewed at 711 Randolph includes wetland replication as part of its proposal.
Hurley was joined by Town Planner Bill Clark, Town Counsel John Flynn, and Town Administrator Annmarie Fagan. Hurley said the comments were being recorded. Mr. Comeau also said he was taking note of residents feedback.
Hurley said that the issue regarding the buffer is one that the trustees and Pulte will have to deal with.