Sheffield Select Board to re-evaluate legal fight with Dollar General


SHEFFIELD -- Town officials will meet in executive session Monday to reassess its strategy with the planned construction of a Dollar General store.

A possible update could be made during the Select Board meeting later that night.

"What we understand now is that we don't have the majority [of the town] on our side so that becomes part of our calculation," Selectmen Ted Dobson said.

The discussion follows Monday's special town meeting at which residents voted 284-222 to turn down a citizen petition request for using surplus funds to continue a legal battle against Dollar General, which has already cost the town $11,215 in legal funds.

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 concerning parking, landscaping, and future sales that would prevent construction.

Primax Properties has asserted that it is in compliance with town zoning bylaw, and the ZBA violated proper procedures and overstepped its jurisdiction by blocking construction.

The case is currently before state Land Court Judge Harry Grossman. The judge has provided both sides until the end of Dec. 30 to exchange important documents in the case, according to online court documents.

The town can continue funding the court case with existing legal funds because the article passed on Monday was advisory and non-binding. But they could have their hands tied moving forward with a costly lawsuit.

The town's legal budget is $36,000, but $10,000 has already been earmarked for other litigation. Both of the articles were put forth by citizens; the Select Board has not requested funding at this time.

The Land Court is currently backlogged with cases, Selectmen said, and a judgment might not come for six months or several years.

Both Dobson and Chairwoman Julie Hannum said they'd carefully weigh what voters had to say.

"I think we have to listen to our voters," Hannum said. "The whole litigation is a board decision, but I think it would be foolish not to listen to our voters."

Mediation, or negotiating a settlement, is another option both sides have expressed interest. However, despite the Select Board expressing interest in mediation in September, the two sides have not met, and there is no meeting date scheduled.

Two dates have been discussed, but in the latest discussions Primax Properties was noncommittal, according to Dobson.

Primax could be waiting until after the special town meeting, Dobson speculated. Dobson, who supported the funding allocation, said the town's leverage could be compromised.

He described the special town meeting as a vote of "no-confidence" that hurt town board's ability to do what's in the best interest of the town.

Kathleen McCormick, who represents Primax Properties, wrote in an email statement that her client "will continue to work with the town to resolve any outstanding issues."

"Mediation was discussed but at no time was any date or mediator chosen," McCormick said.

To reach John Sakata:,
or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @jsakata


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