Troy Mills group resigns; future of property in question

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff | Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 12:00 pm

TROY — Efforts to redevelop the former Troy Mills property have hit a big stumbling block.

The board of directors of the Troy Redevelopment Group, a nonprofit organization that owns the property, has resigned.

The move has left selectmen scrambling to find out the repercussions, including if ownership of the 19-acre site will become the town’s responsibility.

Selectmen appointed the redevelopment group to address environmental concerns on the property off Monadnock Street, and then the property was transferred to the group through bankruptcy proceedings.

The town also holds a $1.25 million mortgage on the site, according to documents from the Cheshire County Registry of Deeds.

Whether the town now owns the property is “for inquiring minds to find out,” Selectman William T. Matson said Monday night.

“You’re not dealing with a committee resignation,” Matson said. “It’s a corporation that fell into lapse of the town.”

In the meantime, selectmen voted unanimously Monday to ask members of the redevelopment group’s board of directors to meet with them next Monday.

Selectmen Chairman Howard M. Sheats Jr. said they need to talk to the group’s members, research the matter and consult with legal counsel.

Both he and Selectman Gideon L. Nadeau Sr. said they don’t know what the resignation of the redevelopment board means for the ownership of the property, let alone its future.

In January, the Troy Redevelopment Group presented the selectmen with a proposal outlining an agreement between the group and developer Robert E. Hanson. While the memorandum referenced a purchase and sales agreement, redevelopment group President Donald A. Upton they were far from such an agreement with Hanson.

The agreement asked the selectmen to forgive the $1.25 million owed on the 19-acre property as a condition for selling it to Hanson.

The proposal also is contingent upon Hanson’s company receiving approval from the planning board to subdivide the site, and the company reaching agreements with the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority on loans that have been taken out for hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up the site. Provided all conditions are met, Hanson’s group would buy the property for $400,000, but pay for it over three years.

Selectmen delayed any action on the proposal until April at their Jan. 19 meeting.

Before that meeting, Nadeau released the memo of the proposed agreement to the public, saying he believed townspeople deserved a say on the future of the mill complex. The memo was first presented to selectmen in a nonpublic session the week before.

Many residents attended the Jan. 19 meeting to protest how the proposed sale was being handled, tempers boiled over, and spilled into the hallway after the meeting when Upton, who had another obligation that night, arrived.

Hanson has been interested in buying the property for several years, and 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.

The redevelopment group’s resignation letter, which was passed out to selectmen Monday, included only Upton’s signature, but said it was on behalf of Vice President Ralph Wentworth, Treasurer Dave Adams, Secretary George Tremblay and Director Gary Sheldon.

The two-page letter was dated March 11, which was the same day as town meeting.

At town meeting, voters approved a warrant article to spend $10,000 on an appraisal of the former Troy Mills complex, and to have any recent or future contracts brought to the selectmen regarding the property reviewed by legal counsel.

In the letter, Upton wrote that the redevelopment group’s board has served together for more than 10 years, and “it appears to us that the need for and viability of our continuing as the stewards of the Troy Mills Complex has come to a close.”

“In light of the Selectmen’s decision to defer action on the proposal to release the Town’s mortgage on the Troy Mills Complex, and the swirl of (distorted) publicity accompanying that decision, we do not believe that the five of us are able to effectively represent the Town’s interest in continuing negotiations with Mr. Hanson,” Upton wrote.

Upton also said the nonpublic memo’s release compromised his group’s ability to negotiate with Hanson. “We believe that the Selectmen would now be better served to assume direct responsibility for completing the negotiations with Mr. Hanson, with the assistance of counsel.”

He added that the $1.25 million mortgage “was never intended to be recovered by the Town, but rather to serve as a means for the Selectmen to retain some priority over any subsequent creditors, and some control over the direction of future developments.

“No reasonable person could have realistically believed that the Mill had a value close to that mortgage amount when the mortgage was instituted, and indeed, the Mill may yet have a negative market value without substantial management and investment toward a continued development plan.”

Troy Mills, which originally made horse blankets before becoming a leading producer of automotive fabrics, closed in 2001 and filed for bankruptcy in 2003.Meghan Foley can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or mfoley@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MFoleyKS.