Sheffield Finance Committee: Dollar General fight not worth the cost
Correction: This article now reflects that resident David West, who submitted Article 2, reiterated comments made by the Finance Committee.
SHEFFIELD -- The Finance Committee has offered its opinion on a potential legal battle over a proposed Dollar General store -- It's not worth it.
The committee weighed in last week on the matter, voting unanimously not to support an upcoming town meeting vote to allocate funds to cover any legal costs.
"At this point, I haven't been given any evidence [we can win]," Finance Committee Member David Macey.
Residents will vote on three articles at the Nov. 18 special town meeting, two of which relate to the controversial project.
Article 2 is a nonbinding measure that advises against using town funds in the case; Article 3 would allocate $30,000 from free cash to support a legal fight in the ongoing controversy.
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 accused the ZBA of violating proper procedure and overstepping its jurisdiction by blocking construction.
The Finance Committee voted 4-0 to support Article 2; by the same vote, the committee voted against Article 3.
Members voted only after pressing Town Manager Rhonda LaBombard, who was present at the meeting, about the likelihood of their chances of winning the legal case. She declined comment, citing the recommendation of the town's attorney.
LaBombard said there will be further elaboration on the case on the week of Nov. 11, when town officials are expected to revisit the issue.
The town's free cash balance is more than $800,000, said Finance Committee Chairman David Steindler. Ironically about $100,000 of that fund came from the sale to Primax of the property, whose owner paid the town for back taxes.
Resident David West, who submitted Article 2, reiterated comments made by the Finance Committee.
"We would like to know what the chances are in court," West said. "I don't think it's good, so I don't think it's wise to spend money on a lost cause."
Catherine Miller, who submitted Article 3, declined to comment. She has previously said the article is about funding the town's ability to carry out what's in the community's best interest.
The Finance Committee also supported Article 1, which would provide a tax subsidy for Berkshire Mountain Distillers, Inc. The Tax Increment Financing Plan would call for the Sheffield brewery to pay no property taxes for the first year of the 10-year deal after the new facility is built. The company would pay 10 percent of its tax bill the second year, with subsequent increases annually until reaching 100 percent after year 10.
A similar article was passed during May's town meeting. However, since then Berkshire Mountain Distillers has sought to move to a different address.
"He has established a business here, and he has been moderately successful and he wants to expand and we want to encourage his expansion," Steindler said.
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