October 18. 2013 10:30PM

Proposed Manchester Walmart plan clears legal hurdle

New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER — It looks like the last legal roadblock against a Walmart Supercenter on Gold Street is gone.

The state Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's dismissal of a suit on which opponents had pinned their hopes as they attempted to block Walmart's four-year effort to build the supercenter at the site of the former Associated Grocers warehouse.

The ruling came in the second of two suits filed by opponents. Final briefs in the suit were filed in late June.

The latest ruling, issued Oct. 11, affirmed a Hillsborough County North Superior Court decision that the city's board of mayor and aldermen properly approved altering Gold and Sewall streets by installing gates.

The high court said it did not need oral arguments, but that the briefs and record submitted on appeal were sufficient to make the decision in which all five justices concurred.

Hannaford Brothers, which has a supermarket one street away on John E. Devine Drive, and other nearby companies had filed two suits in an effort to block construction of the proposed 188,000-square-foot store, which would include a full-service supermarket.

One of the suits seeking to block the proposal challenged the planning board decisions that allowed Walmart to move forward. The board required Walmart to make $3.5 million in improvements to nearby roads and to convince the city to gate off the residential portions of Gold and Sewall streets.

The second suit challenged the board of mayor and aldermen's decision to gate off the two streets.

In January, the high court affirmed the lower court decision that upheld the planning board approval. Last week's decision affirmed the lower court ruling dismissing the Hannaford and Victory Distributors appeal of the aldermen's decision.

Walmart first went before the planning board in September 2009. The planning board approved the project in December 2009 and the board of mayor and aldermen followed suit in March 2010.

Asked Friday when work might begin on the supercenter project, Amanda Henneberg, a Walmart spokesman, said in an email: "We do not have a start date for construction yet."

The supermarket landscape in the area has changed dramatically since Walmart first proposed the supercenter.

Hannaford still has its stores on John E. Devine Drive and on Colby Court in Bedford, but Stop & Shop closed all six of its New Hampshire stores, including the one at 777 S. Willow St., and Shaw's store at 375 S. Willow St. was one of six it recently closed in New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, Market Basket opened stores on Elm Street in downtown Manchester and on Donald Street in Bedford, near the intersection of routes 114 and 101.