By K.B. Sherman, Community Reporter
Grafton – A settlement between Pulte Builders and the town of Grafton was the subject of a disagreement between town officials during the Board of Selectmen’s April 7 meeting.
On Jan. 9, town officials announced they had had reached a $1.3 million settlement with Pulte Homes over the profit dispute for the Hilltop Farms Chapter 40B development in South Grafton. Of the $1.3 million total amount, the town said it would retain $900,000 and the rest would cover legal expenses.
The litigation claimed that the town was owed $8.5 million in excess profits from Pulte, according to the State Inspector General. This is far above the established profit limit for 40B properties. Including penalties, the town was seeking $17 million in compensation from Pulte. The admittedly far less amount in the settlement means the Town ended all further legal procedures with Pulte and “would seek ways to use the returned funds.”
“The money can be used on anything because it is a general settlement,” said Town Administrator Timothy McInerney at the time. “The community needs to determine what it wants to spend the money on.”
But the Grafton Affordable Housing Trust (GAHT) disagreed with that sentiment.
At April 7 meeting, GAHT Chair Edward Prisby addressed the selectmen about the letter he had received from town regarding the disposition of the settlement amount. According to Prisby, the settlement money should have immediately been turned over to the GAHT rather than have been deposited in the General Fund.
This generated a reply from Selectmen Chair Brook Padgett in which he stated that this had always been the board’s intention but that town rules require a vote at Town Meeting before any money can be allocated to any specific board or trust. This answer precipitated a spirited exchange between Padgett and Prisby, with charges of dishonesty and lack of faith being lodged by both sides. Prisby said he could not understand why a vote at Town Meeting was required, to which Padgett said had always been the case. Selectman Jennifer Thomas interjected that she had believed this item was on the agenda to discuss what, indeed, was to be done regarding the GAHT’s request, and Selectman Dennis Flynn opined that this should have been discussed among the board before the meeting.
Prisby again objected to the money’s disposition being decided by Town Meeting as he was concerned that the meeting might not so act. Nonetheless, at the end of the lengthy discussion, the board indicated that it would work with Town Counsel to redraft the article so that there would be little chance of the town meeting attendees defeating it.
By a unanimous vote, the selectmen said they article will be discussed at a future board meeting.