SHEFFIELD -- Residents will have an opportunity next month to weigh in on whether the town should spend up to $30,000 to fight an appeal in state Land Court over the planned construction of a Dollar General store.
The Board of Selectmen on Monday accepted a petition submitted by resident Catherine Miller that would ask residents to authorize the town to free $30,000 to engage in the developer's appeal over the rejection of the project. The funding would come from the town's free cash fund.
"It's to give a chance for the people in the community to vote," Miller said.
Residents will vote on the measure during a special town meeting on Nov. 18. Another article to be voted on at the meeting, which is non-binding, would advise against using town funds in the case. A public hearing on the town meeting is scheduled for the week of Nov. 11.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Primax Properties has filed an appeal in state Land Court over Sheffield's decision to block a project to build a Dollar General store on 660-680 North Main St. The Zoning Board of Appeals has identified 10 zoning bylaw violations concerning parking, landscape and future sales that would prevent construction of the discount variety store chain.
Primax Properties has asserted it is in compliance with town zoning bylaws, and the ZBA violated proper procedure and overstepped its jurisdiction by blocking construction.
Town officials are currently trying to schedule a mediation hearing with Primax that would avoid a potentially costly lawsuit. A date hasn't yet been confirmed.
The town's current legal budget is $36,000, but $10,000 is earmarked for other litigation.
The meeting warrant will only have the two Dollar General-related articles, and an article that would provide a tax incentive, or town subsidy, to Berkshire Mountain Distillery to move to a new location in town. A similar article was previously passed at May's annual town meeting, but this request will be for a different location, according to Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard.
On Wednesday night, the Financial Committee voted unanimously not to endorse the measure to secure the legal funds in the Primax case; the panel also voted unanimously to endorse the article advising against spending town money in the case.
Miller's petition included 151 signatures, which still need to be reviewed by the town clerk to ensure they are certified voters, according to LaBombard.
The signatures were collected in a span of three days last week, Miller said. Most of the individuals were against a Dollar General coming to town, she said.
Miller, who took over the signature gathering from another resident Dennis Sears, said the article is about funding the town's ability to carry out what's in the community's best interest.
"This is a matter that goes to the heart of democracy," she said.