By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
| Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 12:00 pm
TROY — Prompted by public pressure Monday night, selectmen decided to hold off on a vote about the future of the former Troy Mills complex until after town meeting in March.
The tension then spilled over into the foyer of Troy Town Hall after the meeting had adjourned, with residents getting into a spirited debate with a local official about the merits of a proposal that includes selectmen forgiving a more than $1 million tax lien on the 19-acre mill property so it can be sold.
The official was Donald A. Upton, chairman of the Troy Redevelopment Group, the nonprofit organization that owns the site and wants to sell it to Robert E. Hanson, a developer who has been interested in buying the property for several years.
During Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, residents questioned the motives behind the proposal and Hanson’s credentials.
“We had a hard time finding anything on Hanson,” said Francis H. Fournier Jr., former co-chairman of the town’s Industrial Development Authority.
Resident Richard H. Thackston 3rd suggested the selectmen hold off voting on the matter until after town meeting, and suggested revisiting the vote the second Monday in April.
“It would give the opportunity for any petition warrant articles that could come up, and give you two-and-a-half months to look at this,” he said. “Clearly, action on this tonight would be inappropriate.”
The selectmen settled on a date of April 27 to vote on the proposal, which seeks to sell the property to Hanson providing certain conditions are met by him, the town and the state.
Town budget committee member Bert W. Lang said if the selectmen didn’t put together something about the mill property for town meeting, he would.
Troy Mills, which originally made horse blankets before becoming a leading producer of automotive fabrics, closed in 2001 and filed for bankruptcy in 2003. The Troy Redevelopment Group, appointed by selectmen to address environmental concerns on the property, then acquired the property.
A Jan. 13 memo from Upton to selectmen said the Troy Redevelopment Group is proposing an agreement that would lead to the sale of the mill complex to a new corporate entity established by Hanson called Troy Properties LLC.
The memo references a purchase and sales agreement, but Upton said Monday the redevelopment group is far from such an agreement with Hanson.
Hanson and his partners have been working with the redevelopment group during the past eight years through a company called Troy Mills Developers LLC.
Hanson had negotiated an option to purchase the property from the Troy Redevelopment Group in 2005, with a plan to put condominiums on the site. But that plan never materialized, and that option ended in June 2014, according to the memo.
To sell the property to Hanson today, some conditions would have to be met, including the selectmen agreeing to write off $1.2 million in back taxes on the site, and Troy Properties receiving approval from the planning board to subdivide the property, according to the memo.
In addition, Troy Properties would have to reach agreements with the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority on loans for hundreds of thousands of dollars made to clean up the site over the past 12 years, the memo said.
Lang, Fournier, Jeffrey L. Beal, Michael J. Walsh and Marcia Nadeau were among the residents speaking against the proposal during the selectmen’s meeting.
All said they were skeptical about the proposal and giving Hanson even more time to develop the property.
“What is going to change now that Bob Hanson has a new LLC?” Walsh asked.
According to the proposed agreement, Hanson would buy the mill complex for $400,000, but pay for it over three years.
There are several caveats in the proposal as to how the payments would be structured to meet the $400,000 total.
Besides believing the property is worth more, Selectman Gideon L. Nadeau Sr. said he doesn’t think the town will receive the full $400,000 based on how the proposal is written.
Selectmen discussed the memo on the proposal during a nonpublic session on Jan. 13.
The memo was made public Monday night after Nadeau released it to the public earlier.
Nadeau said he went public with the memo because he believes townspeople deserve a say on the future of the mill complex.
Selectmen Chairman William T. “Tom” Matson called Nadeau’s actions a “grave breach of public trust.”
A town meeting warrant article approved by voters in 2004 gives the selectmen the authority to sell, or assign ownership of the Troy Mills complex, as long as board members determine it’s in the best interest of the town.
Monday’s meeting adjourned at about 7 p.m., and soon after Upton arrived expecting to talk to the selectmen. Instead, he ended up speaking to residents outside the meeting room.
Nadeau called the gathering of him, Selectman Robert J. Kemp Jr., Upton and about six residents an “informal meeting.” Matson left as the discussion was starting.
Upton was bothered by selectmen’s decision to hold off on voting on the proposal, and said by doing so the town could be sued because Hanson had invested his own money in the project.
Nadeau said he didn’t think the town would be at risk of a lawsuit because Hanson’s original agreement with the Troy Redevelopment Group has run out.
Upton said that previous boards of selectmen didn’t want to know what was going on with the property because they considered knowing a liability.
Also, those previous boards put the $1.2 million lien on the property to protect the town, and didn’t expect to get that money back, he said.
“You guys are unbelievable,” he said, referring to the residents and selectmen. “We have a plan to start getting this thing back on the tax roll.”