It’s disappointing for a business when a decision by a town board doesn’t go its way, but town officials have to look at a bigger picture than the business does, a responsibility that should be respected. It’s unfortunate when unhappy businesses react with lawsuits, and suing officials individually is particularly distasteful because it is a transparent attempt to intimidate.
On Thursday, the Sheffield Zoning Board of Appeals finalized its ruling to rescind the permit for a Dollar General store on North Main Street. The ZBA did so for reasons of aesthetics and concerns about parking, all of which is within its purview. The attorney for the developer, Primex Properties, had said a lawsuit would be filed against the ZBA and its board members if the permit was pulled and that is apparently in the works.
It is one thing to sue a town, which at least has resources and ready legal assistance, and it is something else to go after residents serving the town as volunteers. The group seeking to build a Dunkin’ Donuts on First and Fenn streets in Pittsfield indicated that it would go to court if it did not receive a City Council permit for a drive-thru window, which probably didn’t help its cause, but it didn’t threaten to go after individuals. Targeting town officials with lawsuit threats is a tactic that has regrettably been employed in Lenox.
Primex Properties and other developers don’t see it as their problem but the reality is that it is difficult enough to find qualified people willing to serve their community without them having to worry about getting sued by a deep-pocketed company. Judges may not be able to take that into consideration but they should consider the right of town boards to act in the bigger interest of the community as opposed to the smaller interest of a business.