SHEFFIELD -- In an unexpected twist, the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday voted in favor of having the town enter mediation as a way of settling its legal issues with the developer of a proposed Dollar General store.
In August, Charlotte, N.C. building developer Primax Properties appealed the ZBA's decision to rescind its building permit to the state Land Court.
Primax has asserted in legal documents a right to build a 9,100-square-foot variety store at 666-680 North Main St. But the ZBA blocked development when it identified 10 bylaw violations in Primax's proposal.
The ZBA discussed the legal situation with Primax in a closed-door session for more than two hours on Wednesday.
It voted in favor of using mediation to avoid a potentially costly lawsuit in open session, ZBA Chairman Bart Elsbach said on Thursday.
The measure still needs final approval from the Board of Selectmen, which is expected to discuss it on Monday at its next meeting.
"It could save the town a lot of money and we're open to that," Elsbach said.
Elsbach said the town will still expect Primax to follow Sheffield's zoning bylaws.
"We are not wavering from our original decision" that there are bylaw violations, Elsbach said. "We don't know what they'll propose in mediation. We'll see if it is appropriate or not."
A hearing on Primax's appeal took place before Judge Harry Grossman in state Land Court last week. The next court date has not been scheduled, but Grossman gave both sides until Dec. 30 to exchange documents pertaining to the case.
The Land Court dispute is only the latest incident in a months-long process that has pitted Primax against decisions from both the Planning Board and the ZBA.
The town of Sheffield and members of the Planning Board and ZBA are listed as co-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 after the plans were resubmitted within 24 hours so the development wouldn't be subject to bylaw changes that the town was considering for the project to go through. Voters rejected those proposed bylaw changes at the annual town meeting last spring.
The Planning Board appealed the building permit, and then the ZBA rescinded it, citing 10 zoning bylaw issues, including parking, landscaping, and the future sale of beverages not zoned for the area.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 its appeal in Land Court.