Former Towle's Park residents lose second round in supreme court


Superior court's decision in favor of owner upheld


August 19, 2011
LITTLETON - The former residents of Towle's Trailer Park fought for more than six years to keep their homes, but they lost their second battle in the state Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The justices upheld a Grafton Superior Court decision that the former owner of the park, Joyce Towle Varney, fulfilled her obligations to the residents throughout the sale of her property to developers Austin Smith and David Groom.

"[The decision] doesn't come as a surprise," said former park resident Linda Brady, and she's just glad that the case is finished as the damage has already been done.

"We've lost our homes and a tremendous amount of equity in our homes," said Brady, who was evicted from the park on March 14 along with the remaining five of 22 families. She said she is now renting in Littleton, and said many of the other residents had been forced to do the same.

The residents' fight for the park, which was built in the 1960s, goes back at least six, if not seven years. According to court documents, the residents formed the Willowdale Place Cooperative in 2004 to buy the park when they first learned that the property might be sold. The cooperative ended up not being able to do so, and the 131-acre parcel that included the park was sold in June 2006 to Smith and Groom.

The cooperative first lodged a lawsuit against the developers concerning a clause in the purchase and sales agreement that required the new owners to relocate the park. The residents said that after Smith and Groom gave them notice that the property would be changed from residential to commercial use, they also informed them that a new park wouldn't be built, according to a Littleton Courier story from that time.

In September of 2008, Grafton Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein sided with the developers because another clause in the agreement said no third party could benefit from or enforce any provision of the contract. Bornstein then refused to reconsider the case, and the cooperative appealed his ruling to the state Superior Court, where it was upheld in January 2010.

Meanwhile the cooperative also was suing Varney, alleging that the residents didn't receive proper notice when a change was made to the purchase agreement.

According to the court documents, the original deal consisted of $100,000 for 147 acres, but the buyers determined that there was a title defect because a survey found that there was only 131 acres available. Towle's father had apparently sold a wood lot that was not accounted for. The purchase price was dropped to $990,000, and the sale went through.

The residents said this constituted a change in the original agreement, and argued that they should have received a second 60 days' notice so that they had another chance to make an offer on the park themselves.

They also claimed that the clause in the original agreement that required a new trailer park to be built was taken out before the sale went through, and constituted another change, according to the superior court decision.

On June 25, 2010, the trial court found that the first claim was negated by a provision in the original agreement that allowed the adjustment of the payment price up to $20,000.

For the second claim, the court found that it wasn't supported by evidence as the modification would have required documentation, which never occurred.

In its decision, the state Supreme Court backed the superior court's ruling saying that it was supported by evidence and legally accurate.

"I don't agree with everyone's opinions, but the law is the law," said Brady, who also was the president of the Willowdale Place Cooperative. She also said she didn't think the group would pursue anything further.

The cooperative's attorney could not be reached for comment, but Varney's attorney, Cassandra C. LaRae-Perez, said they were very pleased with the decision.

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