Hinsdale says deeds prevent neighbors from suing

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(Host) Some Charlotte residents are fighting a plan to expand a dairy farm adjacent to their neighborhood. The developer of the large farm project says that deed restrictions on the property prevent the neighbors from taking legal action against him.

But as VPR’s John Dillon reports, the neighbors disagree.

(Dillon) The Hinsdale family of Charlotte wants to expand a 486-acre dairy farm and add hundreds of more cows. Opponents object to the farm’s proposed 1.7 acre manure pit. They say the farm’s expansion is too big for the residential neighborhood and that the manure pit will leak a thousand gallons a day. If the battle goes to court, the first fight may be over deeds, because the farmer says they limit the neighbors’ right to sue.

About 15 years ago, the Hinsdale family subdivided and sold the property to many of the people who are now fighting their large farm plan. The deeds to their parcels say, “no owner or occupant shall take any action, legal or otherwise, to restrict the agricultural use” of the Hinsdale’s farmland. Clark Hinsdale says the opponents haven’t violated the deed restriction, yet:

(Hinsdale) “I think they’re working on it. The act of violating that covenant would be the act of appealing, I believe, that permit. I don’t begrudge any of them their comments, at this or any other hearing.”

(Dillon) But the farm’s neighbors say the deed covenants don’t restrict their right to challenge the project. Bill Leckerling is a lawyer who lives in the Meadowside neighborhood in Charlotte. Leckerling says the deed restrictions refer to the existing 486 acre farm. He says the new farm development includes about a thousand acres:

(Leckerling) “It’s a 400-some odd acre farm that we agreed to co-exist with and live as neighbors with. What he’s proposing now is a huge farm with thousands of animals and a huge waste pit that’s over 1.7 acres. And I think we have every right to object to this change in scope and size of this farm. We’re happy to live with the farm that he originally told us would be there.”

(Dillon) Hinsdale and his father have applied for a state large farm permit to expand the dairy operation. Leckerling says Hinsdale should not use the deed covenants as a legal shield to limit his neighbors’ right to appeal. But Hinsdale says he’s confident the restrictions will stand up in court.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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