The Berkshire Eagle has an excellent story concerning a long legal battle that pitted some urban transplants (collectively nicknamed the “dirty dozen”) in the small town of Middlefield, Massachusetts against local Wiccan-owned mail order business AzureGreen, the largest metaphysical supplier in the United States. Benning W. De La Mater reports on how what started out as questions over proper legal procedure concerning a community-approved business expansion for AzureGreen, became a years-long mudslinging battle to “preserve” Middlefield.
“How did it get this far? How is it that friends in this Hampshire County town of 500 no longer speak? Or that they worry about being run off the road? Or finding a shaving-cream Christian cross sprayed on their driveway? Cries of devil worshipping? An Egyptian pyramid in a cow pasture? A lawsuit? It’s the worst that happens when friendships, religion, business interests and perceived favoritism simmer in a cauldron of small-town politics.”
The trouble started when some former friends of AzureGreen owners Tamarin Laurel-Paine and Adair Laurel-Cafarella felt that Paine misused his influence as a member of the town’s Planning Board to obtain approval for a rezoning decision that would benefit their plans to expand onto a 50-acre plot. Though these issues were settled, and the town eventually voted overwhelmingly in favor of AzureGreen’s expansion, a small group of people unhappy with AzureGreen’s plans started litigation that would tie up the expansion for nearly four years and eventually reach the state Supreme Court.
“On June 28, 2005, Land Court judge Charles W. Trombly Jr. ruled in favor of Cafarella and Paine, stating in his decision, “There are no genuine issues of material facts,” and “the plaintiffs’ objection to the special-permit decision are vague and speculative.” The ruling went on to read that “neither the Carpenters nor O’Brien have shown that they … will suffer a private and specific harm.” … On June 27 of this year, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts upheld the Land Court decision, referring to O’Brien’s claims of property devaluation and sewage run-off as “mere conjecture.” And just 11 days ago, 65 months after the lawsuit was filed, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court threw out the last appeal, ending the hold on construction.”
While this all went on, the town became split over the issue, often with anti-Wiccan signs and statements being thrown around. In addition, many local residents felt that the lawsuit against AzureGreen was an anti-democratic act that pitted natives against urban transplants.
“Long-time residents say the conflict split the town in two. Walter Smith, 71, a former building inspector in Middlefield, said the group’s lawsuit was “an act against democracy. They walked in with a pocket full of money and we swallowed our pride. The arrogance of those 12 people! It still bothers me.” Former Selectman Gary Wheeler said The Dirty Dozen looked at town board members as a bunch of country bumpkins, unfit to handle serious business matters.”
Now that the legal problems are finally solved, AzureGreen is going ahead with its expansion, which includes a new warehouse (with a pyramid in front and solar power), a public kitchen for seniors, a day-care, and a 20-acre parcel that was donated to the Society of Elder Faiths (a Massachusetts Pagan organization) for religious use. But relations in the town are still tense, and it remains to be seen if the “dirty dozen” will try to seek new ways to punish the metaphysical mail-order company. Kudos to Benning W. De La Mater for a well-balanced account of this story.