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Dozens of families forced out of Colchester neighborhood - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Dozens of families forced out of Colchester neighborhood

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COLCHESTER, Vt. -

"I still can't believe it," Dana Hark said. "It's hard to come to grips with it."

Hark is getting ready to say goodbye. She's owned a quaint Colchester cottage since 1987. She started as a renter, eventually bought it, turned it into a youth hostel and raised her first child here. It's a house full of memories.

"We're being evicted from the land," Hark said.

"And figured I'll die here," Mike Carroll said.

Carroll, 72, is packing up, too.

"I'm losing my house," he said. "Everyone else here is losing their house."

Hark, Carroll and 22 other families are part of the Malletts Bay Homeowners Association. Their houses belong to them but Mongeon Bay Properties owns the land. The two groups had a rental agreement set to expire in 2036. Now, a Supreme Court order is tossing the homeowners out 19 years early.

"I was disappointed," Carroll said. "I wasn't surprised."

The legal battle centers on an abandoned property along East Lakeshore Drive. After 2011 flooding, the bank around the house was damaged. Mongeon Bay Properties sued the homeowners association, wanting to terminate its rental agreement covering all of the residents. The landowner claimed the association failed to live up to the lease terms by not having an adequate seawall to prevent erosion.

The judge sided with Mongeon and ordered the association to pay for a new seawall and Mongeon's legal fees. But he said forcing the homeowners to forfeit their properties is a punishment that didn't fit the crime. Both sides appealed to the Supreme Court.

"We were 24 homeowners. We didn't have a management company running our business for us as a business," Carroll said. "We weren't professionals at doing this. Came back to haunt us."

Vermont's high court overturned the lower court ruling and ordered the homeowners off the land by May 1.

Carroll may have to walk away from his $110,000 investment but he's taking what he can.

"All these skylights are mine. I put them in, they're not staying," he said.

Some homeowners will still be paying mortgages on properties they can't live in. So this weekend, they're throwing what they're calling a massive "eviction sale" and everything must go.

"It's a heartbreak," Hark said. "It's a heartbreak for the whole community."

What's left, Hark will donate.

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