Deal to buy homes is ruled binding



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NASHUA - MacMulkin Chevrolet reached a binding agreement to buy the homes of two local couples who fought the dealership, a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge ruled last week. The couples contended a 2007 handwritten agreement was not binding because the original was misplaced by court officials. Chief Justice Robert Lynn found last week that the deal is binding, and a lawyer for one of the couples plans to ask the court to reconsider. David and Janet Bangs and Francis and Margaret Ruel live on Superior Drive in back of the dealership, which is at 3 Marmon Drive in south Nashua. Both couples objected to the dealership's construction of a three-story building after the city had issued permits for a two-story structure with roof parking. Since about 2006, the couples have complained repeatedly to the city that the third story on the dealership building is illegal, violates their privacy and devalued their homes. The couples intervened in a lawsuit filed about two years ago against the city by MacMulkin after planning officials issued a stop-work order on the building, even though 95 percent of the construction had been completed. The city said the dealership was in violation of a 2003 site plan that allowed only two stories and work on the building couldn't be finished until MacMulkin gained the necessary Planning Board approvals. Those approvals have since been obtained by the dealership, Jeff Thompson, a MacMulkin principal, said Tuesday. The case was first heard by Superior Court Judge David Sullivan in September 2007. On the second day of the hearing, a recess was granted so lawyers involved could try to iron out a settlement, according to court documents. A handwritten agreement was reached by the lawyers that day, and signed by the two couples in a courthouse conference room, Lynn said. It stated that MacMulkin's real estate division, MacThompson Realty Inc., would buy the Bangs and Ruel properties based on their values in 2003, when the dealership first proposed its new construction. The final prices for the homes were to be determined by appraiser John Crafts. But after the original agreement was lost by the court, the couples insisted under oath earlier this year that they had never signed any document that obligated them to sell their homes to MacMulkin, according to Lynn. Bangs and his wife testified "that they were under the impression that they were only agreeing to have an appraisal done of their home, and that, after seeing the appraisal, they had the option of selling or not selling." In May 2007 the Bangses filed a motion to recover legal fees and other costs. At the time, David Bangs said MacThompson Realty entered a verbal agreement with the Bangses, and as part of that agreement, MacThompson agreed to buy the Bangses' home at fair market value in exchange for the couple dropping its opposition to the third floor of the showroom. In that motion, the Bangses said MacThompson Realty "has not abided by their part of the verbal settlement and has yet in good faith to provide us with any offer to purchase our home." Ruel testified that a lawyer for the Bangses, Roy Duddy, handed him "a blank piece of yellow paper, which he and his wife signed and which they understood was simply designed to give permission to have their property appraised." Lynn's decision states he did not find the testimony of either couple "to be credible on these points." He said both couples expected to receive "an extraordinarily high price for the properties." When preliminary figures presented by Craft indicated that would not be the case, "it was only then that the Bangses and Ruels decided they had never actually entered into a binding agreement," Lynn said. Lynn wrote that he based his decision primarily on the testimony of Gerald Prunier, a lawyer for MacMulkin, and Duddy. Both lawyers testified "that a written settlement agreement did exist, that it was signed by the Bangses and Ruels, and it called for them to sell their properties to MacThompson for the price specified in the appraisal to be done by Craft." Lynn wrote, "The court finds and rules that parties entered into a binding and enforceable agreement, which obligates the Bangses and Ruels to sell their houses to MacThompson at prices established by the Craft appraisal." Bill Quinn, a lawyer for the Ruels, said he was in process of drafting a motion asking the court to reconsider its finding because the original written agreement was never found. "We're having a hard time with the argument that the state can force the sale of private residence based on a conversation that took place in a courthouse conference room," Quinn said. If his client's motion to reconsider is rejected, Quinn said, the Ruels are prepared to appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Bangses couldn't be reached immediately for comment. agreeing to have an appraisal done of their home, and that, after seeing the appraisal, they had the option of selling or not selling." In May 2007 the Bangses filed a motion to recover legal fees and other costs. At the time, David Bangs said MacThompson Realty entered a verbal agreement with the Bangses, and as part of that agreement, MacThompson agreed to buy the Bangses' home at fair market value in exchange for the couple dropping its opposition to the third floor of the showroom. In that motion, the Bangses said MacThompson Realty "has not abided by their part of the verbal settlement and has yet in good faith to provide us with any offer to purchase our home." Ruel testified that a lawyer for the Bangses, Roy Duddy, handed him "a blank piece of yellow paper, which he and his wife signed and which they understood was simply designed to give permission to have their property appraised." Lynn's decision states he did not find the testimony of either couple "to be credible on these points." He said both couples expected to receive "an extraordinarily high price for the properties." When preliminary figures presented by Craft indicated that would not be the case, "it was only then that the Bangses and Ruels decided they had never actually entered into a binding agreement," Lynn said. Lynn wrote that he based his decision primarily on the testimony of Gerald Prunier, a lawyer for MacMulkin, and Duddy. Both lawyers testified "that a written settlement agreement did exist, that it was signed by the Bangses and Ruels, and it called for them to sell their properties to MacThompson for the price specified in the appraisal to be done by Craft." Lynn wrote, "The court finds and rules that parties entered into a binding and enforceable agreement, which obligates the Bangses and Ruels to sell their houses to MacThompson at prices established by the Craft appraisal." Bill Quinn, a lawyer for the Ruels, said he was in process of drafting a motion asking the court to reconsider its finding because the original written agreement was never found. "We're having a hard time with the argument that the state can force the sale of private residence based on a conversation that took place in a courthouse conference room," Quinn said. If his client's motion to reconsider is rejected, Quinn said, the Ruels are prepared to appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Bangses couldn't be reached immediately for comment.

 

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