Insisting on answers

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:23

MILFORD - Inquiring Milford minds want to know what the school district is up to with the Santos farm. If they had not been curious enough before, planner Tom Shepstone’s recent finding that local planners do have review authority in school planning has upped the ante. Since authorizing school attorney Michael Weinstein to enter into negotiations for the property last November, the board has said nothing further publicly about the status of the property or their negotiations. With the township’s comprehensive plan being revised, the silence has left Milford Township officials in a quandary. The Santos property is the largest and one of the few pieces of commercial property left in the township. The addition of a school in Milford’s three-lane would impact traffic and municipal services. On Tuesday, Planner Tom Shepstone reported that the state planning code requires a school district to bring proposals involving “the location ... sale or lease ... of any structure or land” to the local planning agencies 45 days “prior to the execution” of their plans. He further suggested that a district proposal “may require zoning approval.” The township last month requested a meeting with the school board to discuss the issue. While board members and district officials initially responded that there is nothing yet to report, a meeting was scheduled. It will be held in closed session, scheduled for April 6, prior to the school board’s work session. “This is all very premature,” Weinstein told the Courier. The attorney said that the district is pursuing negotiations on several pieces of property for a planned $51 million expansion program. “We do appreciate the input from the township, the county, and the National Park Service; and if there were a contract, if there was a purchase price, it would be public record and the school board would consider all those things. If there are state requirements for planning commission oversight, we will adhere to those requirements. Right now, we have nothing to share with them.” Beyond his written remarks, Shepstone claimed it “is public knowledge,” that the school plans to build a school on the property.”It’s only a question of when, it’s not whether,” Shepstone said. The school board, he argued, must be put on notice about the planning code requirements before a purchase. “It will be a moot issue after they buy it,” Commission member Dr. Ken Rosenelli said. Shepstone questioned the validity of the district’s pursuing the property. “Why here, when the growth is more to the west. The land is a lot more valuable for commercial and public recreation uses,” he claimed. Commission Chair Kevin Stroyan said the planner’s concern involve traffic configurations, how much of the flood plain might be developed and what kind of public use is foreseen.“We’re not looking for a fight. We’re just trying to look out for the township’s best interests,” Stroyan said.