Judge denies Jones Library project foes’ motion

Staff Writer
Published: 11/1/2021 7:40:52 PM

AMHERST — A $36.3 million project to expand and renovate the Jones Library can move forward so long as it wins a majority at Tuesday’s referendum vote.

Hampshire Superior Court Judge Richard J. Carey on Monday denied an emergency motion for declaratory judgment that sought an immediate decision that the library building plan could only be approved by a two-thirds majority.

While Carey didn’t rule on the merits of the case, he wrote that he has “doubts concerning the applicability” of the two-thirds majority that litigants cited from Chapter 44, Section 7 of state law. He also noted that there was no emergency to decide as the motion could have been filed in August, when the Town Council decided to have the referendum. 

The Town Council in April voted 10-2 in favor of the project, and placed the referndum on Tuesday’s ballot in response to lawsuits over a voter veto petition effort.

Carey wrote that the matter could also be settled after the vote, and that the issue may be moot if the project wins two-thirds majority approval, or if it fails to win a majority.

“If a mere majority of voters votes to affirm the library renovation measure, the plaintiffs would still be able to challenge the result,” Carey wrote.

Those who have concerns with the scope of the project filed an emergency motion for declaratory judgment last week. That legal motion was filed by Amherst attorney and former library trustee Carol Gray on behalf of 40 residents

“The townwide vote regarding whether the town will borrow the $35+ million for the proposed library expansion project requires a two-thirds majority based on state law, the language in the referendum question itself which invokes that state law, and because if town charter provisions were to only require a majority for borrowing, such provisions would be in conflict with state law and therefore invalid,” the lawsuit contends.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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