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November 15. 2012 10:45PM

Another Walmart case may go to Supreme Court

MANCHESTER - A superior court judge has sided with Walmart in a case related to its plans to build a Supercenter on Gold Street, but shovels aren't likely to be breaking ground soon.

One lawyer said the 2 1/2-year-old case will likely be appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which already has another Manchester Walmart case on its docket with many of the same issues. Both cases involve Hannaford Bros Co., the Maine-based chain that operates a supermarket on John Devine Drive, which is adjacent to the Walmart location.

The trial court decision was issued Nov. 1 in Hillsborough County Superior Court-North. In a 12-page ruling, Judge Kenneth Brown upheld the decision by Manchester aldermen to gate the industrial end of Gold and Sewell streets to all but emergency traffic. The gating was part of the Walmart plan approved by the Manchester Planning Board in late 2009.

Plans call for keeping President Road open to through traffic, making it the east-west route that would link most of south Manchester to the new Walmart. In the ruling, Brown noted the new jobs, tax revenue, and $3.5 million in traffic improvements that a Walmart Supercenter would bring to the area. Those outweigh the drawbacks, which he said were city maintenance of the gates, the existing roadways and traffic lights.

"The Court finds these burdens and expenses on the City to be minimal in light of the overall benefit to the public bestowed by the presence of the Walmart and the associated traffic improvements," the decision reads.

A call to the lawyer representing Hannaford, Concord lawyer David Rayment, was not returned.

Hannaford is also the main plaintiff in a case before the Supreme Court, which challenges the planning board's approval of the Walmart plans.

That case deals with many of the same issues as the case decided by Brown, said Peter R. Chiesa, an assistant city solicitor. Briefs have been filed in the Supreme Court case but no hearing has been scheduled.

Chiesa said he anticipates an appeal of the Brown decision.

Eric Blom, a spokesman for Hannaford, said the company is reviewing Brown's decision. "We really don't talk about pending litigation," he said.

In both cases, the city of Manchester, which approved the Walmart plans and the street closings, is the defendant in the suit. Walmart has filed as an intervenor and taken an active role in defending the city's actions.

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Mark Hayward may be reached at mhayward@unionleader.com.


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