Lawyer Pawlet: Daniel Banyai complies with court order on surveyor, access to property | Local News

PAWLET — Slate Ridge owner Daniel Banyai complied with a court order requiring him to hire a surveyor and partially complied with an order allowing officials to inspect the rogue range in person, the Pawlet City Attorney said Wednesday.

Attorney Merrill Bent called the visit “partial compliance” as she said officials were meant to be provided with all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), by court order. Bent said Banyai insisted that the party be held on foot.

Bent said she was present for the May 10 visit, in addition to Banyai, two members of the Pawlet Select Board, Rutland County Sheriff David J. Fox, department officers, the attorney for Banyai and two friends of Banyai.

An email addressed to Banyai’s attorney, Robert Kaplan of Burlington, was not returned by press time Wednesday evening.

Hiring a surveyor and visiting were conditions set by Environmental Court Judge Thomas Durkin on April 18 in response to a contempt of court complaint filed by the town of Pawlet against Banyai.

Durkin had given Banyai 10 days to hire a surveyor and 30 days to authorize a visit, and warned that failure to do so could result in jail time.

“I will warn Mr. Banyai that if you fail to comply with this interim order in any respect, then I will immediately … consider any request made by the City of Pawlet to have you imprisoned until you comply,” Durkin said.

Durkin was ruling on a motion for contempt of court brought by the city of Pawlet against Banyai. He claimed he ignored a previous Environmental Court order ordering him to stop unauthorized firearms training activities on his property, demolish unauthorized structures and pay outstanding fines.

Last month, Banyai paid the city $52,965.35 in fines – the $46,603 originally assessed by the Environmental Court, plus interest. The city had gone to Rutland Superior Court to seize the property for nonpayment.

In 2021, the state environmental court ordered the Slate Ridge facility closed and fined Banyai for failing to comply with Pawlet’s zoning ordinance.

Banyai appealed the decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, arguing that the fines were unwarranted because he claimed he had a valid license; that the court had authorized the improper admission of certain evidence and that the fines were excessive. The high court, in a decision issued in January, upheld the decision of the environmental tribunal.

Regarding ATV access, Bent said the court ruled that vehicles could be used to access the 30-acre property.

“The judge issued an order allowing the city to access the property by ATV,” Bent said in an email. “[Banyai] asked the judge to change the order to prevent the city from using ATVs and to require the city to access the property on foot. The court denied that request, issuing a second order specifying that the city could access by ATV.

“Despite this, the city has been informed that they will not be permitted to access the property by ATV, regardless of what the order says,” Bent wrote. “The city decided to proceed on foot and face the breach of contempt action.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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