Two weeks before Robert Kraft abandoned a plan to build a casino in Foxborough, the Kraft Group paid $1.18 million for a parcel of land adjacent to the Route 1 site where the casino would have been built.
The Kraft Group’s purchase of the 4.9-acre plot of land, located just across the town line in Walpole, caught local officials by surprise when it was disclosed this week. They speculated that the additional land would make the Kraft Group’s holdings around Gillette Stadium more attractive for development.
“We have historically taken advantage of opportunities to acquire land contiguous to ours,’’ said Jeff Cornouyer, a spokesman for The Kraft Group, offering no other details.
An adjacent 200-acre Kraft parcel was initially slated for a biotechnology park, and then for the casino.
The property and other areas along Route 1, as well as Foxborough Center, are the focus of a new town masterplan that is in development.
Walpole Planning Board member Rich Mazzocca said the panel will review the land sale and find out if there will be any zoning implications.
“We just got wind of it,’’ he said on Thursday afternoon. “So we are having the Engineering Department pull the plans and take a look.’’
‘They try whenever possible to add to their holdings.’Kevin Paicos , Foxborough town manager
The sale includes a home at 4 Linden Way formerly owned by Algimantas and Gillian Yurkstas, valued at $407,000, according to a Walpole Assessment database, as well as another adjacent lot.
The April 23 transaction took place in Sarasota, Fla., according to paperwork filed in the Norfolk Country Registry of Deeds. It followed months of acrimony that peaked on May 8, a day after two anticasino candidates were elected in Foxborough. The election prompted Kraft and Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn to suspend plans for the $1 billion entertainment complex.
South Walpole resident Mike McCarthy, whose land directly abuts the much larger Kraft parcel, was one of several leaders of his town’s fight against the casino proposed for the land. But he did not express concern over the latest purchase and said it is time to move on.
“I don’t see them as the Evil Empire,’’ McCarthy said. “If the casino was still alive this would be a big issue. But as long as they do what is permitted in the town, and are sensitive to the neighborhood, they have a right to do what they want with their land.’’
The Yurkstas property opens up to Summer Street in Walpole, a strategic move for Kraft, since it allows access for emergency and other vehicles and would give him the opportunity to tie into that town’s sewer lines. Kraft and Foxborough officials have been at loggerheads for several years over sewer access issues.
Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos was also unaware of the land purchase but speculated that Kraft’s concern is whether the original parcel is big enough for large-scale development.
“They try whenever possible to add to their holdings and they have the capital to do it,’’ Paicos said.
Before the casino idea emerged, Paicos said the town had been working with Kraft on the development of an industrial park, including advocating for state and federal funds for a pedestrian bridge over the busy highway, as well as for a permanent public transportation stop.
“It would provide high-end jobs,’’ Paicos said. “And it would represent a high investment for the town and a beneficial effect on the economy in general.’’Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton @live.com.