Town enters private negotiations with Krafts

FOXBOROUGH — Talks between Foxborough officials and the Kraft Group are going behind closed doors to negotiate development-related requests for Patriot Place and Route 1 that include eight new liquor licenses, zoning changes for housing units, and another hotel, as well as a potential gas station and a car wash.

Town officials say they also hope to determine who actually owns the pair of Route 1 billboards that the two parties have shared, as well as whether the Kraft Group, which owns Gillette Stadium and the New England Patriots, owes the town millions from a promised wastewater treatment plant that residents voted to reject.

On Tuesday, selectmen met with Kraft officials to discuss details and establish a negotiation committee. The “elephant in the room” is the $7.5 million the Krafts pledged for the wastewater facility that never materialized, selectmen chairman James DeVellis said at the meeting. DeVellis said residents need to know whether the money is owed, whether it is owed as a social contract, or isn’t owed at all. “We need to put the answer on paper and then live with it. We would be better getting into negotiations with that behind us.”

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In an open letter to the town recently, Kraft officials denied owing the town, saying, “We have met all of our obligations and Foxborough is receiving significantly greater value from Patriot Place than originally projected.” The $2 million Patriot Place was estimated to generate annually for the town is really closer to $3 million, company officials said. With the stadium, Foxborough receives more than $6 million in yearly direct revenue through taxes, fees, and other payments, they said.

Ted Fire, Kraft’s director of project administration, said if the partnership continues, both sides can do more. “We have learned what has worked well at Patriot Place over the last five years,’’ he told selectmen on Tuesday. “Restaurants thrive, and we want to build on that strength.”

He said the plans for the mall would add both a Japanese and a Mexican restaurant, a bowling alley with entertainment, and a luxury hotel. Two of the liquor licenses on the wish list would be for package stores.

Selectwoman Virginia Coppola said the licenses raise concerns about alcohol overload in the stadium area. But Fire said the licenses are necessary to attract “big-box” retailers that sell alcohol as well as other items.

“It’s in both of our interests to get a committee together to negotiate this,’’ said Kraft vice president Dan Murphy. “Our interests are aligned here.”

Appointed to the negotiation committee are Selectman Mark Sullivan, Town Manager Kevin Paicos, and town counsel Richard Gelerman.