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Amherst Media Ends Construction Site Lawsuit with Insurance Settlement

Amherst Media Ends Construction Site Lawsuit with Insurance Settlement

AMHERST – A Hampshire Superior Court lawsuit pitting Amherst Media against a former neighbor and developer, which reached the Massachusetts Court of Appeals in November, has been resolved by a financial settlement.

Through his insurance, Amherst Media, which operates the city’s public access station, agreed to pay $ 12,000 to Jerry Guidera, who, in 2013, on behalf of his mother, Barbara Guidera, sold the two non-profit lots on Main Street where he intends to build a new headquarters.

The settlement ends legal actions that began in January 2018 when Amherst Media sued Jerry Guidera, alleging that he devalued the two plots and possibly rendered them unfit for a building that will house his production plant and technology center.

A year later, Guidera filed counterclaims under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, demanding that Amherst Media pay damages, costs and attorney fees related to the pending lawsuit. Guidera alleged abuse of process, malicious prosecution, tort interference in advantageous contractual relationships and a civil conspiracy.

Guidera said this week that the settlement shows that what Amherst Media has done to it was wrong, that the organization is a “bad neighbor” and that it uses a combative approach for no reason.

“Amherst Media is a bad neighbor who has no sense of commitment to the community that it is charged with serving,” Guidera said.

Amherst Media Executive Director Jim Lescault released a statement on behalf of the organization that oversees the city’s public access, educational and government television stations, and broadcasts many local public meetings and programs.

“The $ 12,000 settlement frees Amherst Media from any future legal proceedings of any kind, and should not be construed as an admission of liability and expressly denied,” said Lescault. “The settlement was paid by the insurance company only to avoid the burden and expense of protracted litigation.”

Amherst Media plans to construct a Greek Revival-style one-and-a-half-storey building on the Main Street properties, a move necessitated by an eviction notice it received from its long-standing site on the street College by the owner of the Eversource building in August 2010. The Local Historic District Commission issued a certificate of suitability for the building to fit in the Local Historic District of Dickinson, and the Planning Council approved the site plans for the building, which could be constructed at a cost of $ 1.5 million.

The lawsuit began in the land court in early 2018 when Amherst Media argued that there were illegal encroachments by property abutting the Amherst Media site, including plantations, a hangar, a wall and a fence, and a driveway, as well as water drainage.

A year later, after the case was transferred to Hampshire Superior Court, Guidera filed counterclaims. While these were dismissed by Judge John A. Agostini, who in his ruling said Amherst Media’s actions were “viable and reasonable,” the state appeals court ruled in November that the case was to remain active, and the parties reached a settlement soon after.

Guidera previously lived in the Hills House, which he renovated, which adjoins these Main Street lots.

Guidera said he believed he could have received a lot more money as part of the settlement, calling what he did “shakedown” and Amherst Media’s efforts to muzzle him. But he understands that Amherst Media is in the middle of a fundraising campaign for his new home.

“I accepted this token settlement from Amherst Media rather than crippling them with a costly lawsuit, because I believe there is still a great need in our community for public access to government and a forum for an open debate on issues that concern us all, “Guidera said.

A second legal action involving Amherst Media against the city, related to the issuance of the certificate of suitability, remains active. The lawsuit was filed out of fears that the commission had instead granted a proof of proof, and that the certificate of adequacy could have shaky legal grounds if neighbors who oppose the project file a lawsuit.

Scott Merzbach can be contacted at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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