Members of the Foxborough Board of Selectmen want to hear from representatives of the Kraft Organization regarding plans for potential development and expansion at Patriot Place and along Route 1 before the town moves forward in negotiations.
“I would like the Kraft Organization to come in here and present to us what their plans are for Route 1,” said Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis at Tuesday’s meeting. “Liquor licenses, zoning, housing, billboards … so we can hear it and say ‘that’s great, we’ll buy into it tomorrow’ or ‘we have apprehension’ or ‘go to other boards and come back to us in a year after you’ve heard from them.’”
The board agreed with DeVellis’ suggestion following a 35-minute discussion on the town’s need for sewer and the status of public negotiations between the town’s public advisory committee and the Kraft Organization.
Town Manager Kevin Paicos made note of the board’s request and said he would schedule half an hour on the selectmen’s next agenda (Sept. 18) for the Kraft Organization to meet with the board.
DeVellis hopes the board will gain a better understanding of what the Kraft Organization plans to do with the eight additional liquor licenses it is requesting.
“Hopefully at the next meeting [the Kraft Organization can] come and give us a presentation on what the heck they want to do up there because when they say eight liquor licenses people panic,” DeVellis said. “But when you say a nice Italian restaurant and an expansion to the hotel that needs a liquor license or a Japanese restaurant, it’s a little more palatable.”
The Kraft Organization met several times in August with the town’s four-member public advisory committee to publicly discuss future development opportunities at Patriot Place and along Route 1 as well as the town’s increasing need for sewer capacity.
During those public discussions, the Kraft Organization presented a MOU and term sheet of some of the things they would like to bring to Route 1 and Patriot Place.
Among those development possibilities at Patriot Place are a bowling alley with an entertainment license – similar to Kings in Dedham, a Mexican restaurant and a Japanese hibachi steakhouse.
Potential development along Route 1 would include 300 units of multi-family housing, which would require zoning changes, a train station at Gillette Stadium and a new hotel.
Some town officials have called the Kraft’s latest presentation a “wish list,” citing proposals of this nature, primarily with the liquor licenses and the zoning changes along Route 1, will not be a simple process.
“With the kinds of things [The Kraft Organization] is looking for, they are not fast,” said Kevin Weinfeld, chairman of the Planning Board, who sits on the public advisory committee. “Language has to be right, public hearings are going to take awhile. Because of the type of zoning alterations [the Kraft Organization] wants to make, I guarantee [there is] going to [be] a lot of public input.
“Realistically, I think the process is better served if we take our time to go through it in its normal way. Some things will happen quickly and other things won’t. … That’s just my gut. Based on the history of the complications on the kind of stuff that’s there. A lot of these things that are there don’t exist today, which always makes it more difficult. When you have a wholesale change, where it is something completely new, it definitely slows the process.”
The Kraft Organization understood the public meetings with the town’s public advisory committee to be a “starting point” in discussions for new development possibilities.
“[We] want to see that we are on the same page for what the goal of this discussion committee is and that we are working together to come up with a term sheet that we could agree to,” said Dan Murphy of the Kraft Organization at the Aug. 22 public advisory committee meeting.
On Sept. 18, the Kraft Organization will hear what the Board of Selectmen think of its proposal.
Four out of five members of the selectmen attended at least one of the public meetings with the Kraft Organization in August while selectman Lynda Walsh sat on the four-member advisory committee. She reported Tuesday that she was pleased with the progress that was made during those meetings and is hopeful her fellow board members will keep an open mind with these future proposals and negotiations with the Kraft Organization.
“I think it was a starting point for healing between the town and the Kraft Organization and it was good to just have these things out in the open on how discussions get started and what they’re wish list is and what they expect from us and what we would get in return,” Walsh said. … “It was very positive … I think it was a great exercise because the public was involved. I think there are good feelings on both of the sides so we will see where it goes.”
Selectman Virginia Coppola, who attended two of the public meetings in August, disagreed, saying she remains bothered that the Kraft Organization has not fully addressed, in her opinion, its previous negotiation with the town involving 12 liquor licenses for Patriot Place.
“Through legislation, [Patriot Place] was given 12 liquor licenses,” Coppola said. “When I was up in the State House, I was involved in the preliminary for that and one thing that was stressed when we met with Senator Morrissey was that for these additional liquor licenses, the town really should make sure they get all the mitigation that they deserve because liquor licenses are very lucrative for the holder of that liquor license.”
Coppola feels the town and the Kraft Organization have not done that.
Board of Selectmen clerk Lorraine Brue said while she thought the public meetings with the Kraft Organization went well, she agreed that mitigation for the 12 liquor licenses awarded in 2007 has not been fully addressed, in her opinion, and that she would be hesitant to move forward in new negotiations until prior negotiations were taken care of.
“I think the next set of licenses that are being requested should be a totally different set of mitigation,” Brue said. “What’s being proposed through this MOU, I feel, is a carry over from 2007’s MOU so I feel like I need to draw a line there and suggest that should be settled to address the first set of licenses and any negotiation that the Board of Selectmen or any representative go into be focused on that next set after we addressed that first set.”
DeVellis, siding with Walsh, said it is in the best interest of the town and the Kraft Organization to enter negotiations and move forward with discussions.
“They certainly need liquor licenses for them to grow and to expand,” DeVellis said of the Kraft Organization. “They make a profit and the town is better off in some aspects, between the meals tax and the property tax and what have you. You can play with the numbers and it is probably a benefit for both to move forward. … To get to that point I think we need to negotiate.”
But to do that, DeVellis believes the board needs more information and that’s why he requested the Kraft Organization come in and presents its ideas for development.
“To say ‘yes, we want to negotiate’ without knowing what it is [will only] do harm to the people that think money is already owed,” DeVellis said. “If we wait another two weeks and have a presentation and be a little bit more informed of what we want to do, I think that goes a long way.”
Town Counsel Richard Gelerman and Paicos have been preparing to enter into negotiations with the Kraft Organization to discuss the request of eight liquor licenses and ideas for future development.
Those negotiations, however, will not begin until after the selectmen see and discuss the Kraft Organization’s presentation.
Paicos agreed with the selectmen’s decision.
“All we wanted to do was hear the board’s reaction to the [Kraft Organization’s] term sheet,” Paicos said. “Have [The Kraft Organization] come in a couple of weeks and have them make a presentation and tell you what they’ve got in mind. In the meantime, we don’t negotiate and see what you decide and what you want to do as a board after they give you a little more detail.”
Public Advisory Committee Suspends Meetings with Kraft Organization
The committee agreed on Aug. 22 to suspend its meetings with the Kraft Organization to give its members time to report back to their respective boards (Selectmen, Water and Sewer and Planning) to share what had been discussed.
“I think as much as could be done in the public has been done and I think now we shift off to a negotiation team that would speak for the boards once the boards decide how they are feeling on things,” said Walsh.