On June 16, 2021

Slate Ridge tactical firearms facility stays; Banyai requests insurance, body guard for site visit

By Katherine Lazarus

Banyai was permitted to build a storage shed as an accessory building for his permitted house, even after the Environmental Court ordered him to remove the building earlier this year. 

Banyai’s neighbors, the Huletts, filed an appeal on the permit, which was heard Thursday, June 10.

Richard Hulett Jr., member of the Select Board who won by a landslide against Banyai on Town Meeting Day, appealed because he believes that Banyai is building a 30-foot by 20-foot shed as a possible dormitory for his paramilitary training site Slate Ridge at 541 Briar Hill Road in Pawlet, which has been ordered to be permanently closed.

Hulett insisted upon a site visit at the hearing. “That building has been ordered to be dismantled by a court, and he has not complied and isn’t going to comply. I feel we need to get up there and see what he’s got before we start issuing permits for a building that’s already there and has been ordered by a court to be taken down.”

Banyai has already accrued $46,000 in late fees for not removing the unpermitted building. 

The Development Review Board (DRB) cannot prove what the shed is for without a site visit to Banyai’s property, which Banyai told DRB Chair Keith Mason he will only allow if Mason will “add me as additionally insured on your insurance policy and pay for private security to protect me,” Banyai said.

The shed was approved by Zoning Administrator Jonas Rosenthal, although Banyai said he will be fixing a mistake he made after Hulett pointed out the claim of 261 feet of road on the permit is the Huletts’ driveway.

State and national media have covered this developing story because Banyai’s behavior and social media posts about Slate Ridge made his neighbors feel unsafe. Most recently, Planning Commission & Development Review Board members reported that Banyai has been taking videos of their homes and businesses. State police said it was not a crime. Banyai said he was taking footage of the community in general.

Banyai, who at one point said only some members would be allowed for a site visit, later said: 

“I invite you all to come and visit the property. The only person that’s winning here is Meryl [sic] Bent,” he said referring to Merrill Bent, Pawlet’s town attorney, accusing her of writing the appeal for the Huletts.

Ms. Bent clarified: “I’m the town’s attorney not the Huletts’ attorney.” 

She focused the group on next steps, which is to determine if the shed is a new building or a preexisting one.

Mandy Hulett, who has taken a restraining order out against Banyai, wanted to know, “How can you have an accessory building to a building that doesn’t exist? So, our question is, what is it accessorizing?”

This confusion contributed to the neighbors’ concern as to just what Banyai is doing on his property, she said. 

“The easiest way is to do a site visit and certificate of compliance. I hope that Mr. Banyai would reconsider imposing unreasonable restrictions, like which board members can go and the insurance. Rethinking that position might be a good idea,” Bent said.

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