SHEFFIELD -- Town officials have signaled there's no early resolution to a legal dispute over the proposed development of a Dollar General store.
Last Tuesday, Land Court Judge Harry Grossman held a hearing on Charlotte, N.C.-based developer Primax Properties' lawsuit against the town of Sheffield. Primax is claiming the right to a building permit to develop a 9,100-square-foot lot on 666-680 N. Main St. as a Dollar General. Sheffield has blocked the permit, citing zoning violations.
According to the Land Court case docket, the judge denied Primax's request to expedite a decision on its suit. Meanwhile, both sides have up to Dec. 30 to exchange documents important to the case. The next hearing date was not listed.
At Monday's regular meeting, Selectmen discussed the suit in scant terms.
"The litigation continues," Selectman Chairwoman Julie Hannum said. "A lot cannot be said at this point."
Hannum and Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard only made brief comments on the matter. Selectmen Rene Wood and Edwin "Ted" Dobson did not make comments.
The Land Court dispute is only the latest in a months-long process that has Primax pitted against decisions from the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals [ZBA]. The town of Sheffield and members of the Planning Board and ZBA are listed as defendants in the suit.
The appeal centers around a building permit issued by Building Inspector Thomas Carmody. Critics say Carmody hastily issued a building permit within a 24-hour period of the plans being re-submitted so the development wouldn't be impeded by proposed bylaw changes. The bylaw changes were shot down at town meeting.
The Planning Board appealed the building permit, and then the ZBA rescinded it, citing 10 zoning bylaw issues, including parking, landscaping, and the future sale of beverages not zoned for the area. Primax Properties then filed an appeal in Land Court.
On Monday, Selectmen, addressing public inquiries, disclosed that the town has spent about $5,000 on legal fees through July. The town's legal bill from Kopelman and Paige PC for the month of September has not been submitted.
During the same meeting, resident David West handed in a petition calling for a special town meeting vote that would prohibit taxpayer money from being spent to defend the town in the legal dispute. The petition was signed by 151 residents, according to LaBombard.
Selectmen accepted the petition and they said it would be placed on town warrant, even though there is a reference to a September town meeting that is now scheduled to take place in October. A special town meeting date is expected to be announced at the next meeting.