SHEFFIELD -- Primax Properties is moving forward with its appeal in state Land Court to build a Dollar General, claiming the town has failed to respond to two requests for settlement offers, according to Primax's attorney.
"Because the town is not engaging in any exchange of settlement proposals, Primax has informed the town that it will need to proceed with the litigation," according to a statement released Wednesday by attorney Kathleen McCormick, of Great Barrington-based McCormick, Murtagh & Marcus, who is representing the building developer.
"Primax has also informed the town that if and when the town makes an offer of settlement, Primax will suspend litigation efforts to focus on a hopeful settlement of the zoning appeal."
Select Board Chairwoman Julie Hannum said she expects legal counsel from the town and Primax to "be discussing the contents very soon." She said due to the holidays she could not provide a date when.
"I wish we could have moved the process along more quickly," she said.
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 N. Main St. The Zoning Board of Appeals has identified zoning violations, but Primax has asserted it is in compliance with town zoning bylaws.
The letter states that Primax's attorney has reached out twice to settle the Land Court appeal since a Nov. 18 special town meeting, but the town has been uncooperative.
In the special town meeting, voters declined a citizen-petitioned article that would have allocated $30,000 from free cash funds for the town's use on the Dollar General legal suit. Residents also supported a non-binding article that would advise the Select Board against using town funds in the case. McCormick said the continuation of the legal suit was prompted by the cancellation of a Monday executive session meeting. Primax claimed the meeting was canceled because the Select Board was awaiting information from Primax.
"It is entirely unclear to Primax why the Board of Selectmen announced on Dec. 16 that it was unable to meet to consider making a settlement proposal," the letter states.
Sheffield Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard said the town has drafted questions that will be submitted to Primax through the town's legal counsel. The meeting was canceled because there was nothing to discuss, she said.
Hannum said the questions are in "final draft form" but have not been delivered yet. The town will meet in on Dec. 30 to further discuss litigation strategy.
"We're interested in trying to seek some closure to this issue with minimal cost to the town," LaBombard said.
"Weeks prior" to the special town meeting, Primax submitted a "settlement offer" to increase the setback and amount of landscaping for the proposed Dollar General store, according to the letter. The letter states the town declined the settlement offer.
LaBombard said the "settlement offer" was a revised sketch plan, and the town did not respond.
In the letter, Primax states they requested a settlement offer from the town on Nov. 19 and then again on Dec. 12.
The latest query was prompted after the firm received notice the Select Board met on Dec. 9 to draft a settlement, according to the letter.
"Four weeks after the special town meeting, the town has not made any offer of settlement. Primax remain willing and committed to settle the zoning dispute."