A Middlefield resident has started a petition demanding that the town not sell Powder Ridge to the owner of the Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park in Portland.
Instead, Laura Williams says in her online petition, the town should look at deals to lease Powder Ridge to Brownstone, perhaps similar to the way Portland leased the former quarry property to Brownstone, which operates a succesful adventure water park at the site.
Williams started the petition on change.org. She said she hopes it will focus attention on the qualms some have with the proposal to sell the former ski area to Brownstone for $700,000, specifically worries that the town is getting a bad deal.
Brownstone has given Middlefield a letter of intent to buy Powder Ridge and invest enough in the property to bring skiing back to the long-vacant property.
“It’s going to cost our town a heck of a lot of money if we sell it for so little and the business fails,” Williams said. “The town has been bombarded year after year with proposals to buy this property.”
She also said she feels the town’s leaders, specifically First Selectman Jon Brayshaw, have not properly vetted the proposal and examined Brownstone’s agreement and business history with Portland.
Williams said she spoke with Portland First Selectwoman Susan Bransfield about Brownstone, and was stunned to learn in that discussion that Brayshaw has not contacted Bransfield to talk about her town’s experience with Brownstone’s operators and how the town formulated its lease deal with the group.
“Personally, I don’t think due diligence was done. I don’t think that Jon Brayshaw or anyone else reached out to the town of Portland.”
Brayshaw today could not immediately be reached for comment.
Under its lease agreement, Brownstone pays Portland a percentage of its gate fees from the adventure park. Information Williams has gotten from the town indicate Brownstone paid Portland $524,000 in gate fees between May of 2007 to January of 2012.
She also has obtained a copy of Brownstone’s lease with the town, a copy of which is available in a PDF above. Williams said she’s hoping that all of this information, which she said should have been available at the recent town meeting on the proposed Powder Ridge sale, will help residents make a more informed decision on the deal.
“We want to hand it over to Jon … and say 'The people have found out information that wasn’t found at the town meeting.’ Folks have a right to be advised of what the facts are.”
Sean Hayes, one of the principals of Brownstone, said today he’s not interested in a lease deal for Powder Ridge because the propoerty needs, from the start, at least $4 million in infrastructure investments. In addition, he said, Williams is off base when she seeks to compare a potential lease of the Powder Ridge land with the quarry property in Portland. The latter property, Hayes said, needed no infrastructure investment and therefore, a lease deal made more sense.
“You can’t relate the two. We walked into a situation at Brownstone where we didn’t have to invest any capital expenditures. There was no infrastructure environment at Brownstone.”
He said there is “no way” Brownstone would ever lease Powder Ridge.