Dollar General wins Land Court victory against Sheffield


SHEFFIELD -- A ruling in Massachusetts Land Court has cleared the way for Dollar General to build a store in the town.

Judge Harry M. Grossman has vacated a 2013 action by the town's Zoning Board of Appeals to repeal the building permit for the store, which had been issued by the building inspector in March of that year.

The Board of Selectmen announced the ruling on Monday not and did not comment further on the judgment.

The ruling ends a yearlong dispute over the store that has divided the community.

Primax, a developer based in Charlotte, N.C., is seeking permission to build a 91,000-square-foot Dollar General store at 660-680 N. Main St. Primax filed an appeal in state Land Court in June 2013 after the ZBA pulled the original permit, stating a retail store was allowed by right and the plans comply with the zoning bylaws.

The next step in the process is to complete a review of the permit by the Board of Health, Conservation Commission and Planning Board, according to town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard.

Crystal Ghassemi, public information director for Dollar General, said the company has no timetable for construction.

"We just got word [Monday]," she said. "We're in what we call our due diligence stage, where we review our status. We look forward to serving our customers in the area."

Bart Ellsbach, former chairman of the town's Zoning Board of Appeals, said Tuesday night that the town's failure to support its own boards was "a poor way to conduct [town] business."

Ellsbach, who was not reappointed last month by the Selectmen to the ZBA, said his board voted 5-0 to revoke the building permit.

"This was not about opposing Dollar General," he said. "Everyone has his own opinion, and I have mine. But this was about safety issues and bylaw violations. That's a very big store on a very small lot on a road with a lot of traffic. We had concerns about that.

"This was not an objective process," he said.

The judge's ruling requires Primax to adhere to a number of requirements. Among these are modifying its plan to reflect landscaping improvements, including the replacement of any landscaping destroyed or damaged via snow removal in the winter.

In addition, the company has agreed to schedule deliveries, to the best of its ability, during hours when the store is not open; file an improved truck-turning plan; ban off-site parking on Route 7; adhere to the town's other zoning bylaws for landscaping; and apply for the necessary permits.

As part of the ruling, the two parties agreed to allow the incidental sale of dairy products at the store. They have also agreed to cover their own legal fees and to waive any appeal of the final judgment.

This judgment was not entirely surprising. At a special town meeting in November, voters approved an article to prohibit the town from expending any further tax dollars on the issue. On April 4, the Selectmen voted to authorize town counsel to settle the legal issue between the town and Primax. But it has taken more than three months to iron out the final agreement.


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