Judge finds Town of Belmont did not cause former bank building on Main Street to decline in value

BELMONT — A Merrimack County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against the town by the former owners of the Northway Bank building on Main Street. The plaintiffs had charged the town caused their property to diminish in value when it announced its plans to eliminate Mill Street Extension as part of its village revitalization project.

William and Carolyn McDonough had also asked the court for loss of rental income they said was created when the town announced its plans in 2010 to revitalize the village district.

Judge Richard McNamara ruled that the McDonoughs provided no evidence that the potential of road had diminished its value. He said based on the evidence presented to him, the building had dropped in value due to housing prices that had nothing to do with the road being discontinued.

The McDonoughs bought the building in January 2009 for $275,000 and rented the space. In December 2009 they entered into an conditional sales agreement for the building and property for $275,000 but the voters rejected it at the 2010 annual town meeting.

In 2010, the town also announced its plans to for the Belmont Village Revitalization Plan and in late 2011 hired an architect to design it. The McDonoughs entered into a second sales agreement with the town in 2012 for $250,000 and the voters approved it at a specially convened annual town meeting in August 2012.

Evidence considered by McNamara was two appraisals – one done at the behest of the McDonoughs and one done at the behest of the town.

He said the McDonoughs' appraisal was flawed because the method by which the appraisal was done utilized an income analysis that included the value of the rental along with the tax value of the land and property.

"It is unclear that Mr. Manias (the McDonoughs appraiser) understood whether or not the leases on the property were "triple net" leases," he said, meaning that the commercial tenant agrees to pay all of the expenses associated with the lease.

McNamara also said the sales evidence he presented to compare the Main Street property to sales of other similar commercial buildings was inconsistent in that he used sales of properties along highway that sees up 8,000 vehicles a day and Main Street in Belmont sees about 1,000.

More importantly, said McNamara, the McDonoughs "provided no opinion regarding what the property was worth after the discontinuance" and that was "fatal" to their suit.

He said the town's appraiser included the method by which the assessment was done including evidence that general property values had decline five to six percent from 2009 until 2012. The town said the property was worth $245,000 when it purchased it for $250,000.

In March 2013, McNamara dismissed three other elements of the suit for damages for inverse condemnation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and unjust enrichment.