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2016-02-14
Boston, MA. High Court Refuses To Dismiss Neighbors’ Wal-Mart Lawsuit

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on February 12th that 7 Greenfield, MA neighbors who are fighting a 135,000 s.f. Wal-Mart have the right to request another venue for their appeal--either Land Court or Superior Court.

This means that their lawsuit, which was filed 4 years and 9 months ago, can now go to trial. The SJC refused to listen to Greenfield officials, refused to listen to the Connecticut developer, and refused to dismiss the citizen's appeal.

The town and developer had urged the high court to dismiss the case outright. For years the parties have been arguing over which court should hear the neighbor’s appeal.

Greenfield is the town in rural Massachusetts where Sprawl-Busters was founded. The current Wal-Mart site is just across the street from a 67 acre site where voters in Greenfield rejected a Wal-Mart proposal at the polls, and defeated a Wal-Mart superstore in 1993---making this the longest Wal-Mart battle in America.

The SJC Court wrote: "We conclude that the Legislature intended that major development permit appeals should be adjudicated only in the permit session of the Land Court or in the Superior Court. We also conclude that, where the permit appeal in this case was timely filed in the Housing Court in accordance with G. L. c. 40A, § 17, the appropriate remedy is not to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction but to transfer the case to a court with jurisdiction that is, the permit session of the Land Court or the Superior Court.

This is a key victory for the neighbors, who have fought against the town and a wealthy Connecticut developer for the right to have their day in court.

The developer and the Town of Greenfield argued that this case should be dismissed--leaving these homeowners with no right of appeal, But the SJC has kept their appeal alive---and the neighbors will now be allowed to appear in Housing Court to request a new venue. Ironically, the original Housing Court judge had petitioned the courts to allow the case to be transferred from Housing Court, and to allow her to sit as the judge in Superior Court---but the developer did not support that transfer.

The Mayor of Greenfield said the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling was a "poor decision." But anti-Wal-Mart activists said the only poor decision here was made by the Mayor's office 5 years ago when he told Planning Board members that he had spoken to Wal-Mart personally, and they had indicated they would come to Greenfield at 100,000 s.f.---close to the 80,000 s.f. that neighbors were willing to discuss.

Instead of seeking a settlement, the Mayor sat on his hands while the Planning Board voted by a 1 vote margin to make the French King zone fit a big box project, instead of making the project fit the overlay zone.

Even now, facing the cost of a trial, the Mayor is not seeking to bring the parties together, but instead blames the court for a "bad decision."

The 7 Greenfield homeowners now have much to do to prepare for their trial. They need to prepare professional witnesses on traffic, residential appraisal, etc. The group’s lawyers are now working to present their case on its merits, which means reviewing and researching the record submitted before, during and after the Planning Board hearings.
Neighbors said they need to raise at least $30,000 quickly to carry this case through to trial. Readers who want to help these small town residents stop the world’s largest retail giant can contribute to their campaign by making out a donation by check to their law firm;
Lesser, Newman, Aleo & Nasser, LLP
39 Main Street
Northampton, mA 01060

Put on the check’s memo line: ‘Greenfield Defense Fund’

What you can do: The 7 Greenfield homeowners now have much to do to prepare for their trial. They need to prepare professional witnesses on traffic, residential appraisal, etc. The group’s lawyers are now working to present their case on its merits, which means reviewing and researching the record submitted before, during and after the Planning Board hearings.

Neighbors said they need to raise at least $30,000 quickly to carry this case through to trial. Readers who want to help these small town residents stop the world’s largest retail giant can contribute to their campaign by making out a donation by check to their law firm:

Lesser, Newman, Aleo & Nasser, LLP
39 Main Street
Northampton, mA 01060

Put on the check’s memo line: ‘Greenfield Defense Fund’










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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