A handful of Middlefield residents shared their concerns Tuesday night over the distribution and details of the sales agreement reached this week between the town and Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort LLC owner Sean Hayes.
The concerns were brought up during a nearly hour-long public comment period at the start of last night's Board of Selectmen meeting and ranged from whether pages of the agreement are missing from copies available at town hall to whether Hayes is financially prepared to buy and invest in Powder Ridge, which has sat vacant for five years.
On Monday, selectmen held a special meeting in executive session to review the agreement. At the end of the meeting, in a 2-1 vote, to Hayes for $700,000.
"[Monday's] behavior by the first selectman and second selectman at the Board of Selectmen's meeting was a travesty," said Lucy Petrella reading from a letter she'd written following the meeting.
Read Petrella's full letter in the attached PDF
Petrella, who serves as chairman of Middlefield's Board of Finance, said she was upset that her request that the finance board be directly involved in discussions regarding the agreement was denied by First Selectman Jon Brayshaw.
In an email to Petrella, Brayshaw said the request was "inappropriate and unfair ... to have an assortment of folks participating in the negotiations."
"I am strongly in favor of developing Powder Ridge," Petrella said. "What I am not in favor of, however, is selling out the people of Middlefield to any buyer at any cost just to get Powder Ridge off our backs."
Resident Seb Aresco, who is a member of the town's Economic Development Commission, made it clear that he was not in favor of a provision in the agreement that gives Hayes the right of first refusal if or when the town decides to sell the 20-acre parcel of land recently split from the property.
"Why would you want to give someone the right of first refusal," Aresco asked.
When several residents questioned whether an audit of Hayes' finances would be made available to the public, Brayshaw said he expected only to see an executive summary of the audit.
The summary, he said, would be made available to the public at a later date.
"It's awfully hard to figure out what's going on," resident Jim Brown said, referring to the length of the agreement. Brayshaw said the amount of performance clauses in the agreement led to it's unusual length.
Pat Brown said copies of the agreement distributed at town hall were missing several pages, including a section she said appeared to absolve Hayes from the requirement of providing ten years of skiing at Powder Ridge.
Selectman Ed Bailey said the clause had been carefully reviewed by the town's attorney and required a high burden of proof.
"It would be something akin to the fact that every single ski area in the state of Connecticut has gone out of business," Bailey said.
Brayshaw said a public hearing will be scheduled soon to allow residents the opportunity to hear Hayes' business plan or ask questions before they vote on whether to sell him the property.
"He's getting the deal of a lifetime," said resident Susan Heuberger. "I'm just looking to see if he has gratitude for that."