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Town of Amherst facing fewer legal issues

In an annual litigation status report presented by town attorneys Kopelman & Paige, Town Manager John Musante said the three-page memo indicates that the town is dealing with fewer cases.

“The primary thing to say about this report is it’s shorter,” Musante said.

So far, the town has spent just $28,157.24 of the $110,000 appropriated for legal expenses, according to a second-quarter budget update presented by comptroller Sonia Aldrich.

There are seven active cases, down from 11 listed in the report in February 2012.

The most expensive lawsuit over the past year relates to the project to install a solar project at the old landfill on Belchertown Road, with the town spending $8,376.98 to defend the lawsuit filed by residents who live near the project site.

This lawsuit remains active, but Hampshire Superior Court denied a motion by plaintiffs for reconsideration. In addition, a state legislative amendment expressly allows such renewable projects to move forward on capped landfills.

The town spent $7,186.30 on the Alpha Chi Omega v. Zoning Board of Appeals lawsuit. This comes after a Dec. 9, 2011, ruling that the 38 Nutting Ave. sorority could not become a fraternity house without a special permit. The Hampshire Superior Court case has the two parties engaged in the discovery phase of litigation.

Lisa Packard filed a Superior Court suit against the zoning board for denying, in December, a special permit that would have allowed her the right to foster and hold for adoption up to 30 greyhounds at her 145 North Whitney St. home. The town has spent just $577.50 on this case.

The town filed suit against Brian Covel, owner of Pioneer Valley Pizza, related to a project at 30 Boltwood Walk. So far, the town has spent $5,431.91 at Land Court, with a March 19 hearing for summary judgment motions.

Three additional cases, including two litigation matters and one labor matter, remain active but incurred no costs on the municipal side in 2012.

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