After a lengthy, and at times heated, debate, the Governor Stoughton Trustees voted to approve the proposal of Pulte Homes of New England, LLC to develop 23 homes on the 34-acre property at an open meeting on Monday night.
The function room was brimming with residents as the Board of Trustees, which consists of the three members of the Board of Selectmen, chose to go with Pulte over the Copeland Family Foundation.
Pulte Homes will purchase the property for $5 million to build 23 homes, using the town’s cluster zoning, on 30 acres of the historical land off Canton Avenue. The remaining four acres, where the Milton Animal Shelter and four historic structures sit, would be given back to the Trustees.
The Copeland Family Foundation offered to pay $1.75 million over five years to the town, while maintaining much of the open space. The proposal would also renovate the Men’s Almshouse for the Milton Community Food Pantry, which is currently located at Parkway United Methodist Church.
The Foundation would also allocate land for a new animal shelter to replace the small building, which is in poor condition that is currently located at 181 Governor Stoughton Lane, on the property.
The Trustees ultimately settled on a motion that awarded the contract to Pulte with the condition of a Purchase and Sale Agreement and approval from the Attorney General’s Office and a probate court judge. The motion included the Copeland plan as the second choice, awarding the property to that group if the Pulte deal falls through and the Copeland Family Foundation agrees to keep its proposal on the table.
Selectman John Shields, who expressed his favor of the Pulte plan at a previous meeting, said the need for approval from the AGO and the courts influenced his vote.
“Our obligation, as we sit here this evening, is to do what’s best for a man’s last will and testament,” Shields said, speculating the Attorney General would not approve a proposal that significantly undervalued the land in favor of one that was approximately $3 million higher.
Chairman Robert Sweeney, who has long favored keeping the land as open space, called the Copeland proposal a “clear winner.” When pressed by Shields about getting approval from the Attorney General, Sweeney cited Governor Stoughton’s will, which gives the Trustees the power to “do as they see fit.”
“I wouldn’t have a problem going before the Attorney General,” Sweeney said, receiving applause from the audience.
Tom Hurley, the newest member of the Board of Selectmen, served as tiebreaker between the two distinct opinions.
“I think the risk is too great to go forward,” Hurley said in regard to Shields’ point about the Attorney General.
While Hurley’s vote did move the decision to favor Pulte, he also seconded Sweeney’s motion to add Copeland as the backup option.
“In all fairness, we’ve said the Copeland Family Foundation is the second choice,” Hurley said during the discussion of whether or not to include an alternative into the motion.
The vote and discussion by the Trustees was preceded by comments from the public. Nearly 20 residents stood to express their opinion, the majority of which supported the Copeland plan.
Many residents in favor of Copeland cited their long record of supporting the town.
“I believe we have over 40 years of trust with the Copeland Family Foundation,” said resident Stan Dworkin. “We know where they stand.”
Many speakers questioned Pulte’s reputation, while others pointed out the long and often challenging process of development.
“Their motive is profit, which is far different than the Copeland Foundation,” said resident Sean Fahy, who has been in the construction business for 25 years. Fahy warned of an adversarial relationship with the development company.
While there were far fewer speakers in support of the eventual winning proposal, the residents all pointed to the significant financial difference between the two proposals.
Jim Henderson, a CPA from Milton, was among those in favor of the Pulte plan. During his remarks, Henderson pointed out the net growth for the town, and highlighted the $3 million difference between the options.
“Those numbers are overwhelming,” Henderson said.
The next step is for the town to sign a Purchase and Sale Agreement with Pulte Homes of New England, LLC before seeking approval from the Attorney General and a probate court judge.