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Krafts, Foxborough in talks as rift cools

Development initiatives around Patriot Place are the subject of talks between Foxborough and the Kraft Group.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/File

Development initiatives around Patriot Place are the subject of talks between Foxborough and the Kraft Group.

The rift appears to be healing between Foxborough and the Kraft Group following a public battle over a casino complex proposal this spring that damaged rapport between the town and its largest taxpayer.

Representatives of several municipal boards have been meeting with the Krafts, owners of Gillette Stadium and the New England Patriots football team, as part of a committee formed to hash out several initiatives, concessions, and zoning changes the company hopes will boost its economic development goals along Route 1.

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Headlining the talks are Kraft requests for the town to supply eight new liquor licenses to Patriot Place, the upscale mall next to the stadium, and zoning changes that would allow development of 300 housing units in four-story building clusters near the stadium. One of the liquor licenses would be designated for a second hotel at Patriot Place and would bring the total at the Kraft properties to 25, officials said.

Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos said the proposed hotel is “a fantastic opportunity” for the town, although he said he doesn’t know which one in particular might come.

“Obviously, the Kraft organization doesn’t do anything in a small way, so it will be a major chain,’’ he said.

The Krafts are still the town’s biggest partners, Paicos said, despite the recent discord. “I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have a conversation. In fact, I couldn’t be more optimistic,” he said.

Foxborough Police Chief Edward O’Leary, who has worked to curb rampant underage and other binge drinking at events at Gillette Stadium and elsewhere around town, said he had no comment on the Krafts’ request for more liquor licenses.

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“Our town manager does not want us to speculate or comment about the work that is being done at this time,’’ he said in an e-mail.

Paicos said the Krafts have worked hard to protect patrons at the stadium. “They have been good partners,’’ he said. “I think Ed would agree.”

The company has pledged to fund the position of a new public safety coordinator to promote alcohol awareness, according to a list of requests it submitted to the committee for consideration.

It would also pay to train local law enforcement if the licenses are granted. Such a move would require a Town Meeting vote, as well as approval from the state Legislature.

Most of the requests from the Krafts would require townwide approval, like proposed zoning changes at Patriot Place to allow multiple family housing. They would also use the new liquor licenses to bring in a bowling center, and a Mexican and Japanese restaurant, for example.

Company officials have said adding six restaurants would boost the meals tax paid annually to the town by about $130,000.

Foxborough had already received nearly $667,000 in meals tax revenue as of July, topping the $602,000 the state Department of Revenue has estimated it would receive for the first year the local tax program has been in place.

The Krafts are also offering an olive branch to the community to equally share the profits from a pair of billboards and a water tower along Route 1, a former source of contention that landed the parties briefly in federal court.

Under the new plan, the take for each is estimated at $100,000 a year.

Kraft officials would also resolve another longstanding feud by paying the town $300,000 annually for 25 years to join a proposed regional sewer authority with Mansfield and Norton. 

On the flip side, the Krafts want to amend their stadium lease to slightly reduce the town’s share of ticket sales for concerts and some other events, except for Patriots games and regular soccer events. That would allow the organization the flexibility to bring in more business, Paicos said.

The company also proposes to hold any increases to the commercial parking lot operators’ fees to the current rate of inflation, according to the list of requests that, if approved, would form a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties.

Jeff Cournoyer, a spokesman for the Kraft Group, declined comment on the overtures the company has made to the town, citing “ongoing face-to-face discussions with the committee” in an e-mail.

As they discuss the issues, members of the new panel will decide which ones, if any, to bring back to their respective boards for discussion, selectmen chairman James DeVellis said. 

The members are Selectwoman Lynda Walsh, Planning Board chairman Kevin Weinfeld, Water and Sewer Commission chairman Bill Euerle, and Foxborough resident David Brown, who recently served on a town panel to update alcohol policies.

The Krafts are also asking for the town to support an effort to bring a fulltime commuter rail station to the mall property, along with a multimillion-dollar pedestrian footbridge across busy Route 1, both issues that have been raised before.

DeVellis characterized the Kraft document as a wish list, and a starting place for negotiation. He said the company has also pledged $10,000 to fund attorneys’ fees and other costs that may come up during the review.

“It’s an ambitious list, and the committee will look at how and if it benefits the town,’’ DeVellis said.

If an item on the list isn’t a benefit, he said, it won’t be happening.

“This committee will have the backbone to say no,’’ he said.

At the same time, he added, if members find places of common interest and there is something that can benefit the Krafts? “That is good, too.”

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.

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