Waxwing property owner appeals easement for sewer pump to Hatfield Town Meeting

  • The Waxwing Cafe in Hatfield, Feb. 19, 2020. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/4/2021 3:57:12 PM

HATFIELD — Voters will have an opportunity to either confirm or rescind land takings for the Route 5 water and sewer project at annual Town Meeting next week.

A petition article from Susan Berry of Old Stage Road is on the warrant for the May 11 session asking that the project, including a raw sewage pumping station, not be placed on the properties she owns at 34-36 West St., where the Waxwing Cafe is located.

Berry’s action follows a lawsuit filed in Hampshire Superior Court in March contending that the Town Meeting action in November approving the town’s taking of part of her property was illegal. The suit argues that 45 voters were present at the meeting, instead of the normal 75, and that the reduced quorum should not have been allowed.

A competing article sponsored by the Select Board would allow the town to legally proceed with a permanent easement of 1,100 square feet at 34 West St. and a temporary construction easement of 250 square feet at the same site. Those are both part of a $3.6 million water and sewer infrastructure improvement project along the state highway being supported by a MassWorks grant. The project will extend sewer service on Route 5 from Linseed to Rocks roads, and water service for 2,200 feet along Route 5 south of Rocks Road.

John McLaughlin, an attorney with Greens, Miles, Lipton LLP, representing Berry, said he will appeal to voters to support his client’s petition article, which she got on the warrant by gathering 10 signatures from residents, and to vote against the town-sponsored article. 

McLaughlin is providing a letter from Bucky Sparkle of The Zengineer in Easthampton, which states that the pumping station could go elsewhere.

“From an engineering point of view, the pump station would function just as well if it were located across the street on the west side of West Street, roughly 150 feet north, in front of residential property,” Sparkle wrote in a letter. “The selection of the cafe’s land is an unfortunate choice.”

Not only would it be a preferred location, but could be less expensive to construct there than where it might affect the restaurant’s operations, including the outdoor dining important in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, McLaughlin said.

The lawsuit remains active and seeks a ruling that the original Town Meeting vote was not lawful.

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

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