On December 6, 2023

Coley property sold in Hartland


By Curt Peterson

Even late-comers to Hartland will remember the eyesore at the end of Weed Road — there was a self-destructing house and fence, But by February 2015 the rotting structure was gone, laying bare an illegal junk yard containing an eclectic collection of cars, trucks, a trailer, and unrecognizable junk, all networked together by overgrown weeds, vines and bushes on both sides of the road.

The Hartland selectboard successfully obtained the legal right to clean up the site after the Coley family, owners, had failed to comply with a court order to do it themselves, and failed to keep tax payments current. Dusty Hodgman, part-owner of Hodgman Brothers Scrap Yard in Ascutney, and Ed Tobin of Independent Drive in Hartland, self-described “Junkers,” contracted to do the clean-up during one of the coldest weeks of the winter. 

The feud over this property goes back to a 1967 law prohibiting unregistered, unusable vehicles on private property.

Hodgman, 58 in 2015, said, “When I was eighteen the town was trying to clean up this property. Now here I am, forty-five years later, actually doing it.”

The duo did a good job. Now, seven years later, the town has an $88,000 lien for fines and interest on the property, and it is being sold. 

Interim Town Manager Martin Dole told the selectmen Monday night, as he introduced attorney Beriah Smith of the Sitzel, Page and Fletcher law firm in Burlington, that there is a final offer on the table. Smith has been working with the Coley interests’ attorney to negotiate a release of the lien. 

“The lien exceeds the fair market value of the property,” Dole explained, as he told the board the town would receive net proceeds from the sale after the Realtor commission and the sellers’ legal fees are deducted — $64,500 plus unpaid taxes, according to the Coleys’ proposal. 

Selectman Jim Reilly made a motion to accept the negotiated offer, and it was approved unanimously. Smith was to consummate the transaction Tuesday morning and get the paperwork done.

After more than 50 years, Hartland’s struggle over “the Coley property” will finally be over.

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