Hopedale West Street land dispute case back in court

Town’s deal with Grafton and Upton Railroad at center of residents’ lawsuit

Alison Bosma

The Milford Daily News

HOPEDALE – A lawsuit filed by a group of residents disputing the town’s agreement with a local railroad may be resolved as soon as next month.

The residents filed suit in Worcester Superior Court earlier this year after selectmen signed an agreement with the Grafton and Upton Railroad to split about 155 acres of forest and wetlands off West Street.

The latest court date since the spring has been set for Sept. 9 at 2 p.m.

“I’m glad that we are actually moving forward to get a date established,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Brian Keyes said. “Quite honestly, I’m hoping on that date we have a resolution.”

The town had been in court with the railroad prior to signing the agreement, with both parties trying to acquire all the land which is owned by a Lincoln-based trust. Railroad representatives said the company needs the land for expansion; the town argued it needs the land to protect its drinking water.

The railroad then bought the land, and after a court dispute and legal mediation, agreed to sell about 84 acres to Hopedale for $587,000. Short of an agreement, selectmen said at the time, the town could have gotten none of the land.

The lawsuit by residents argues that selectmen should have acquired all the land, in line with a directive from a Town Meeting vote the previous fall. The group also secured an injunction, which would stop the town from paying the railroad for the land, therefore putting the deal on hold while the case plays out in court.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Dr. Elizabeth Reilly, requested information through a public record request which Keyes revealed at this week’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

“It’s a waste of time and money, in my opinion,” Keyes said, adding that the town will fulfill the request by Aug. 16. “It’s going to show another exercise in futility. I don’t understand really the questioning of me personally and what I do and how I’ve done it. We’ve been completely open and transparent and the records will show that accordingly.”

The request asked for “all email, texts, or voicemails” between Keyes and railroad owner Jon Delli Priscoli or railroad president Michael Milanoski “regarding any GURR development or operational issues, plans, strategy, funding, or notifications from January 1, 2019 to the present.”

“Transparency in government is never a waste of time or money, nor is it futile,”  Lurie said.

Keyes said this week that, should the town fail in court, it’s likely residents will be asked to vote on $587,000 to buy the land  at a Town Meeting.

Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or abosma@gannett.com. Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.

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