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Hopedale - Local Town Pages

Court rules Hopedale can file new complaint to assert right of first refusal for forestland at 364 West Street

Since 2020, the property at 364 West Street has been the subject of litigation between the Town of Hopedale and the Grafton and Upton Railroad which has cleared a portion of the property. Photo credit: Theresa Knapp

By Theresa Knapp 

On April 1, the Select Board provided an update regarding current litigation on 364 Main Street. 

Select Board Chair Glenda Hazard noted there had been some developments in the previous week. She read a prepared three-minute statement. 

“On March 25, 2024, Judge Rubin of the Massachusetts Land Court, ruled that the town can file a new complaint to assert the right of first refusal to buy the forestland at 364 West Street. Judge Rubin’s decision is publicly available and attached at the end of this update which will be posted.** Judge Rubin’s decision in favor of the town follows a favorable decision from the Massachusetts Appeals Court in Reilly vs. Town of Hopedale which is also publicly available. 

“The Appeals Court decision followed rulings by Judge Goodwin in the Massachusetts Superior Court who wrote, in part, that the Grafton Upton Railroad engaged in a ‘flagrant violation of state law to obtain nominal control of 364 West Street.’

“As a result of Judge Rubin’sdecision, the town will file an amended complaint against the Grafton Upton Railroad in Land Court. That amended complaint will include, among other things, the following: That the town has the right of first refusal under Chapter 61 to buy the forestland at 364 West Street; that because of the Railroad’s needless destruction of the forestland, the town should pay less than the original price; thirdly, [sic] that the Railroad must pay the town for other damages to the town and the forestland in amounts to be determined at trial. 

“Once the town files this amended complaint, a copy of it will be made immediately available to the public. The town is confident in its legal positions and feels it has meritorious claims. The town remains open to favorable resolution of this case on terms that remedy the harms already done to the Town of Hopedale and that protect the town from any harms in the future. 

“We understand that the legal issues in this case, and the associated cases, are complex and at times confusing. Significant misunderstandings about the case have circulated in Hopedale so if any residents have questions about this litigation, please reach out to the Board [or] Town Administrator Mitch Ruscitti, who can respond accordingly. Because of the ongoing litigation, the Select Board must protect confidentiality and attorney-client privilege and so we cannot comment about our views on the case while it is pending. 

“The Board will continue to provide updates as quickly and as fully as possible including making filings public as soon as they are filed.” 

After reading the statement, Hazard acknowledged the board could not answer many questions but hoped the update was “helpful and gives you an idea of the direction” the case was moving. 

“It may sometimes seem that there should be a lot going on but, in fact, the court process is slow and there are great gaps of time in which nothing is going on but this is certainly not the case recently so this update would be a result of those recent proceedings.” 


**Editor’s note: The document was not posted with the board packet but can be obtained by contacting the Select Board office.