Cases brought against Hampden in wake of self-storage controversy

Feb. 24, 2022 | Sarah Heinonen

HAMPDEN – Despite decisions handed down by the Hampden Planning Board in early December 2021 against two separate self-storage facilities in town, the controversial topic has not gone away. Instead, the petitioners have taken legal action against the town, alleging public opposition led to arbitrary denials.

Attorney Daniel Garvey, with co-plaintiffs Michael Cimmino, Hampden Self Storage, LLC and Hamden Farms, LLC, has taken the issue to Massachusetts Land Court, which typically arbitrates in planning matter conflicts. They are represented by Attorney Michael Pill.

The town of Hampden has been named as a defendant, as have the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen, as well as each of the boards’ members. The town is being represented by Attorney Jesse Belcher-Timme.

Resident Amy Bilodeau, a vocal member of the citizen’s group “Save Hampden,” was served a subpoena for documents concerning people who have donated or contributed funds to the Committee to Save Hampden, financial records from the campaign, “Save Hampden: No Self-storage,” and especially regarding the individual who donated $5,000 to the campaign.

The group’s Facebook page and petition is also of interest to the plaintiffs and documents regarding those are singled out in the subpoena.

Interpersonal communications between Planning Board members Christine Brodeur and Heather Beattie, all members of the Board of Selectmen, Town Administrator Bob Markel and residents Mary Quinn Grassetti, Jeffrey Grassetti, Lauren Grassetti and Ann Marie Quinn Foley were also subpoenaed. The residents identified were vocal members of Save Hampden.

The suit also seeks documents regarding the appointment of Beattie and Brodeur, who were appointed after the abrupt resignation of two Planning Board members. The stated reason behind the resignations was a social media backlash from residents regarding the self-storage issue.

The case was originally filed on Dec. 22, 2021. On Jan. 13, subpoenas were served to the defendants via Town Clerk Eva Wiseman. On Feb. 7, the town filed a Motion to Quash Plaintiff’s Request for Production of Documents. The next court date on the case is Feb. 28.

Meanwhile, 16 Somers Road, LLC is following a different road of legal redress. The town of Hampden, Board of Selectmen and Planning Board, including all members, have been named in civil appeals suit brought to Hampden Superior Court.

The plaintiff has alleged the Planning Board’s decision was “arbitrary,” and “capricious,” and has “no basis for its denial,” which violates MGL Chapter 40 Section 15. The suit also states, “Opponents of the plaintiffs’ proposed project employed defamatory smear tactics that resulted in the resignation of two members of the Defendant Planning Board.”

The plaintiff has called for a jury trial. The case has been fast tracked, but a judgment is not expected until Dec. 2023.

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