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French King Highway big box appeal transferred to Superior Court



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

GREENFIELD — Neighbors fighting a planned 135,000-square-foot big box store on the French King Highway will have their appeal heard in Franklin County Superior Court, the chief justice of the state Trial Court has ruled.

“This will bring the appeal back home, which is where we wanted it to be,” said Albert Norman, the Greenfield man known nationally as a “sprawl-buster” who has been advising and speaking for the abutters since 2007 when the developer filed plans with the town.

Northampton-based attorney Thomas Lesser, who’s representing the neighbors in court, said they requested the case be heard in Superior Court while the developer, Ceruzzi Inc. of Fairfield, Conn., requested it be transferred to Land Court in Boston.

Ceruzzi’s attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

“We did not want some court in Boston hearing an issue that’s so important to Greenfield,” Lesser said. “We wanted a court in Franklin County to decide this Franklin County issue.”

Norman said the abutters also chose Superior Court so local residents could watch the court proceedings, as well as to allow all of the neighbors to attend, as some of them are elderly and have difficulty traveling.

Although he does not know when the appeal will be heard, Lesser said it will be decided by a judge rather than a jury.

“It was a silly process to get here, but here we are almost five years later and we look forward to presenting some of the reasons why the Planning Board decision was flawed,” Norman said.

The town Planning Board issued Ceruzzi a special permit on May 5, 2011, to build the big box store, but the decision was immediately appealed. Norman said at that time that abutters hoped to slow the project, or possibly even stop it.

A 165,000-square-foot store was originally proposed, but in 2010 the developer reduced the size to 135,000 square feet. In late 2010, Ceruzzi bought 19 acres of Mackin-owned land on French King Highway for $3.75 million. The name of the potential tenant has never been announced, although it has been generally been understood to be a discount department store

Ceruzzi began the town’s permitting process by going before the Conservation Commission in 2007 and received approval from that board in late 2008.

The Planning Board then began its review in September 2010 by opening a public hearing, which closed in February 2011. That’s when the board began deliberations, which continued until May 5, 2011.

The Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments in February from lawyers representing the abutters and the developer at a hearing in Boston. The question before the court was whether the Housing Court, where neighbors originally filed an appeal, had jurisdiction over the case, and if not, whether it should be transferred to Land Court or Superior Court.

You can reach Aviva Luttrell at: aluttrell@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 268
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