Pawlet argues Slate Ridge owner violated court ruling

Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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PAWLET, Vt. (WCAX) - Lawyers for the town of Pawlet want Vermont’s Environmental Court to hold the owner of an unpermitted shooting range in contempt of court.

Slate Ridge, a paramilitary training center, has drawn concerns from neighbors for years about gunfire, noise, and alleged threats from Daniel Banyai, the property’s owner.

A Vermont Superior Court judge last year ordered Banyai to shut down the facility and pay the town $46,000. He paid that fine but according to court documents, he still has not removed the unpermitted structures. He was also required to submit a schematic of his property but he was a couple of days late in filing. Documents released Friday show the court is not going to hold him in contempt for the delay and will not fine him an additional $5,000.

Lawyers for Pawlet contend the structures still have not been taken down even though the Vermont Supreme Court said they had to. Town officials now want the court to impose civil contempt measures which could include jail time.

We asked Ron Shems, a lawyer with Tarrant, Gillies & Shems Law Offices, how common civil contempt rulings are. “Typically, the way it’s described is that the person who is violating the order holds the keys to the jail. When the person decides to comply, the person will be let out of jail. It takes several forms. You could be jailed for civil contempt or you could have a fine,” he said.

Banyai’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment. Pawlet’s lawyer declined to comment.

This latest legal wrangling is just the latest in what has become a long saga for some local neighbors, who have been frustrated that authorities did not get involved earlier. Banyai’s supporters say he’s exercising his Second Amendment rights and should be able to control what happens on his property.

The court has not scheduled a hearing on whether Banyai is in contempt.

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