MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Supreme Court upheld a lower court order on Friday that the owner of an unpermitted firearms training school demolish any unpermitted buildings on the property. He must also pay more than $46,600 in the matter after drawing complaints about noise and intimidation from neighbors in Pawlet.
In its Friday ruling, the Supreme Court ruled the lower court had properly ordered that the unpermitted buildings at the Slate Ridge Vermont facility in Pawlet be demolished and that the fine imposed by the lower court was correct.
In his appeal, Slate Ridge owner Daniel Banyai had argued he had a valid permit for his facility, certain exhibits were improperly admitted at an earlier hearing and the fines imposed by the lower court were excessive.
In April, before he filed the Environmental Court decision with the Supreme Court, he said he would not comply with the lower court order. “We have not done anything wrong,” he said in April during an event at his facility. “We haven’t done anything illegal.”
Banyai did not return a call or text message Friday seeking comment. The attorney for the town of Pawlet did not return a text message Friday.
Banyai bought the 30-acre undeveloped tract of land in Pawlet, a rural town of about 1,300 in western Vermont, about 50 miles northeast of Albany. Lower court documents say that Banyai claimed to have made $1.6 million in improvements to the property.
In 2017, he began operating a firearms training center. The property is only permitted to have a garage with an apartment, but it includes a 500-square-foot structure that serves as a training center and there are a number of outdoor shooting ranges.
Neighbors have complained for some time about gunfire at the facility and what they claimed were threats and intimidation by Banyai and his supporters. Many neighbors of Slate Ridge are afraid to talk publicly because of fears for their safety.
Banyai applied for some of the needed permits, but they were denied during a four-year-long series of legal proceedings. Last March the lower-court judge ordered Banyai to permanently end any training at the facility and to remove buildings that were constructed without zoning permits. It was that decision that was appealed to the Supreme Court.