Windsor officials to hold forum on lawsuit filed by Select Board colleague

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WINDSOR — When a Select Board member sued his own community last year, Windsor residents had questions.

This week, two officials will address concerns residents have about the litigation — and seek to clear the air.

"There's a lot of confusion over what's going on. There are rumors going wild," said Select Board member Doug McNally.

In October, Timothy T. and Patricia S. Crane filed suit in state Land Court in Boston against both the town and two fellow Windsor residents, Allen and Raynee Bird.

The civil action challenges the legality of the town's maintenance of a section of Plantation Road. The Cranes claim the route, which passes near the couple's home at 860 Crane Road, was officially discontinued in a 1920 town meeting decision.

The suit contends the town is trespassing by improving and maintaining the road, which lies not far from the Hinsdale line along the southwestern border of Windsor. The lawsuit asserts that because of the 1920 action, the town lost its duty to care for the road, as well as any easement.

The town, though, holds it has a right and obligation to care for what it sees as a public way.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, McNally and Select Board member Kim Tobin will host what they're calling an "informational meeting" at Windsor Town Hall.

McNally said he and Tobin plan to update residents on the status of the litigation.

For months, the case has been in the discovery process, following a March 29 ruling by the judge hearing the matter.

The first motions are due July 2.

Crane remains a member of the Select Board until July 1. On that date, he will begin a three-year term on the town's Finance Committee.

McNally said he and Tobin want not only to brief residents, but hear their views on the lawsuit's claims.

"It's important to get input. Kim and I are not comfortable encumbering the town with the costs of the lawsuit if residents don't want to do that," he said.

McNally declined to say how much the town has spent to date defending the lawsuit. Windsor is represented by attorney Dennis M. Larochelle of Pittsfield.

Tim Crane said Monday that since he remains on the Select Board, he cannot comment on anything related to the litigation.

McNally said he did not know whether the Cranes or Bird families plan to attend the forum. A notice posted by Town Clerk Madeline Scully said the purpose of the forum is "to discuss options available to the Town relative to a current lawsuit."

McNally said it remains unclear to him what the Cranes actually want.

"It seems there is no resolution to the issue unless everybody agrees not to use the road that goes by the Cranes' house," he said.

According to the suit, the Cranes acted after the town began plowing the supposedly discontinued section of Plantation Road in the winter of 2016-17. The Cranes and Birds own land on opposite sides of that road.

The Cranes want the Land Court to prohibit the town from coming onto the section of Plantation Road in question.

While McNally said he might like to halt the flow of traffic on Route 9 past his house, that's not on option for him. "It doesn't work like that," he said.

Since the action was filed, the litigation has come up during the Select Board's public comment periods.

Crane has recused himself from discussions related to the lawsuit. He filed a statement with the town explaining the nature of the conflict of interest and in a February interview with The Eagle said he faced "a whopping conflict (of interest)," then added: "I can't say anything that wouldn't start down a slippery slope."

While his decision not to run for re-election to the town's top board relieves that conflict, some residents say they are concerned Crane will face another when he joins the Finance Committee.

Though Crane ran unopposed for a three-year seat on the finance panel, he received 59 votes, out of the 112 cast at the May 14 town election.

McNally said questions about possible future conflicts regarding government service will likely be posed by residents Wednesday.

"I imagine it will be raised by attendees," he said.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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