Market Basket family battles over Londonderry road
LONDONDERRY - The developer of the pending Woodmont Commons project is suing the owners of Market Basket supermarkets in a battle to build an access road that developers maintain was part of their initial agreement.
Pillsbury Realty Development LLC filed a $22.5 million lawsuit against the supermarket chain in Rockingham Superior Court late last month, with project officials seeking to attach some of the company's real estate to obtain that sum.
Mike Kettenbach, principal of Pillsbury Realty Development, has familial ties to the Demoulas family and had worked as head of real estate acquisitions for the supermarket company.
However, Kettenbach has maintained since the beginning that the Woodmont Commons project is strictly an independent project of his and is unrelated to any Market Basket business transactions.
Kettenbach's wife, Frances, is the sister of Market Basket company president Arthur T. Demoulas.
This isn't the first time family squabbles have resulted in litigation.
In spring 1993, Kettenbach took Arthur T. Demoulas to court, alleging that Demoulas "installed listening devices in (Kettenbach's) private offices and conference rooms and stole financial documents in an effort to gather confidential information," according to court documents.
Papers were once again served to Demoulas Supermarkets Inc. last week, according to attorney Daniel Luker of the Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios law firm in Concord, the firm that filed the suit.
Luker said the supermarket chain was given 30 days to respond.
The 82-page summons alleges Demoulas Supermarkets breached a May 2011 contractual agreement, where the company had agreed to design, construct and fund an access road that would serve both as an access point to the existing Market Basket store off Route 102 and the Woodmont Commons planned unit development project.
The supermarket was relocated to the other side of the Garden Lane shopping plaza several years ago, leaving the old supermarket vacant. According to attorney Ari Pollack, who represents Kettenbach, plans for the new access road originated out of a planning condition related to the relocation of the Londonderry Market Basket store.
"The project, which took several years to master plan, and which (Pillsbury Realty) invested tens of millions of dollars, has been fully and finally approved by the Town of Londonderry," the lawsuit reads. "Because of (Demoulas Supermarkets)
continuing refusal to honor the Access Agreement, however, (Pillsbury Realty) cannot unilaterally lay out and begin work on the required access road for the project."
The lawsuit encompasses several costs the developer said were accrued during the project approval process, including the purchase of 17 parcels of land purchased for $18.5 million between 2009 and 2011, and $4 million in professional fees, costs and other expenses "of conceptualization, planning, study, consultation, engineering, permitting, presentation and the approval of the Woodmont Commons Master Plan (2009 thru 2013)."
According to Luker, project officials have been unable to begin the permit process and pre-construction work for the access road as the result of Demoulas Supermarkets' agreement breach, and at this point the 2014 construction season "has already been lost."
Londonderry town officials expressed similar frustration last week, noting that Woodmont Commons had been approved with the understanding that the new access road would help address existing traffic problems along Route 102.
The Woodmont Commons development agreement was recorded into the Rockingham County Registry of Deeds in late January.
Smith noted that while the town's planning board has granted conditional approval of the overall Woodmont Commons project, the developers are still required to go before the board for approval of each project phase.
In February, representatives Pillsbury Realty Development appeared before the board with an official update on project progress.
During that meeting, Pollack told town officials that "it would all begin with this access road," noting the road would need to be in place before further development of the Woodmont Commons site.