Town resident Ron Caron, left, said at the Jan. 9 Planning Board public hearings that he is against parceling up the mill property until all title, as well as sewer line and storm drain easements, other questions are resolved. Planning Board member Al Rossetto, 2nd from left, said he would like to see a permanent ATV and snowmobile route go through the mill site. Surveyor Art York of Berlin presented plans, and attorney Jack Crisp Jr. of the Crisp Law Firm of Concord took notes. Planning Board members Addie Hall, selectman James “Jim” Weagle, and chairman Tim Sutherland are seated at the table. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
January 16, 2013NORTHUMBERLAND — Representatives of Groveton Acquisition, LLC, of Enfield which until Oct. 11 owned the bulk of the combined former Wausau and Groveton Paper Board mill site in Groveton batted .500 after two public hearings were held on Wednesday evening, Jan. 9.
Groveton Acquisition sold the property to Manchester Capital Partners, LLC, of Lewes, Del., that then turned around and flipped it at a profit and sold it to Green Steel of Scottsdale, Ariz., apparently sight unseen.
Groveton Acquisition reserved ownership of two industrial sites, subject to subdivision and lot line approvals, however. The company's intention is to generate commercial activity, explained its attorney, Jack Crisp Jr. of the Concord-based Crisp Law Firm.
The Northumberland Planning Board voted 3 to 1, with Addie Hall voting "no," to grant lot line adjustments on three parcels on both sides of the Upper Ammonoosuc River, including the Brooklyn Dam and Powerhouse, all zoned Heavy Industrial. This clears the way for the property owner to work with an interested hydroelectric facility developer-operator.
But the board voted to continue the other public hearing until Feb. 6. Groveton Acquisition seeks a minor subdivision for the 35-acre "mill parcel" owned by Groveton NH1, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Green Steel of Scottsdale, Ariz., to create a new four-acre parcel near the historic covered bridge where the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS) gas metering sand step-down station and scale house are located.
Selectman James "Jim" Weagle, the board's representative to the Planning Board, said at the start of the meeting that the selectmen has concluded that it would be unwise for the Planning Board to make firm decisions on either of the actions that were being proposed by Groveton Acquisitions until the issues were resolved surrounding Groveton NH1-Green Steel's having to stop demolition work because it lacked a permit (see related story). Weagle said that there would be no additional costs to the applicant because no further legal notices or letters to abutters would be required.
A continuation could, however, cost the company the opportunity to conclude a pending deal or deals with commercial companies interested in doing business that would result in local jobs, Crisp pointed out.
Both requested actions brought up ownership and-or title issues, primarily on adjacent parcels, ranging from whether the town actually does own the triangle on which the historic logging locomotive rests, whether the state Department of Transportation (NHDOT) continues to own the former Main Street that runs up to and through the covered bridge, whether the footbridge near the powerhouse is owned privately or by the town, and whether sewer and storm drain easements are in place.
Crisp said that his client is willing to help facilitate answers to these kinds of questions but that the company would not like its plans delayed by issues that do not directly affect is properties. He explained that PNGTS has deeded rights to access its metering station and its gas line.
Resident Ron Caron, a school board member, said that he is opposed to any subdivision of parcels. "The town will be left with a mess on our hands, and Groveton Acquisition will own the best part of the mill site," he said.
Planning Board member Al Rossetto suggested that any subdivision request should be contingent on the town being granted a permanent right-of-way easement to allow ATVs and snowmobiles to continue to reach the Valero gas station on Route 3, south of town. Rossetto complained that he could not trust Crisp. "You have a checkered past," he said. Later he clarified his statement to say that the town has had so many out-of-town companies make promises and then not fulfill them that he and many other residents feel burned and distrustful. He also later said, "I feel that these companies push to get their last drop of blood."
Crisp pointed out that he had represented the former pulp mill site owners in Berlin and that its being transformed into the Burgess BioPower biomass plant was bringing much-needed local property tax dollars and jobs to the Androscoggin Valley.
Chairman Tim Sutherland, a licensed surveyor, helped board members to narrow the issues to those that appropriate under town ordinances and state laws. Although it would be nice to have a OHRV ROW through the mill site, he explained that the town cannot force a private property owner to grant one.