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Board Favors Private Lane In Hartland

Vote Brings Michel Guite Closer  To Shutting Roadway to Public

Hartland — Telecommunications Executive Michel Guite is one step closer to turning a 0.2-mile public road in Hartland that leads to his property, private.

The Hartland Selectboard voted last night to discontinue Ayers Lane, which extends off Town Farm Hill Road, and leads only to Guite’s property.

“Now the clock is ticking,” Town Manager Bob Stacey said of the 90-day process to officially discontinue a public road.

With the board having voted, the next step will be a site visit on April 1 at 6 p.m. followed by a public hearing at 7 for questions and concerns. Following the hearing, the Selectboard will have 60 days to present its report in writing, Stacey said.

At hearing last November, many residents were wary of the idea to turn Ayers Lane into a private road, citing loss of access, especially for outdoor activities, as a prime concern. But last night only one person showed up at the meeting.

Hartland resident Elaine Brousseau asked board members if the individuals who spoke at the November meeting would have to restate their concerns on April 1 for them to be valid.

“In a legal sense are the testimonies we already heard good anymore?” Brousseau asked.

Although there was a consensus among board members that everyone “remembered” what was said back in November, Selectboard Chairman Gordon Richardson noted the board would consult with the town attorney to make sure everything is legal.

Guite, who wasn’t present at last night’s meeting, previously won a three-year Vermont Supreme Court legal battle to exhume graves from the Aldrich Family Cemetery, which was situated on the 164-acre estate he acquired in 2008. Ayers Lane leads to Guite’s property.

Guite previously cited privacy for closing Ayers Lane and called the presence of people on his land was “somewhat disturbing.”

Members of the Ancient Roads Committee opposed the decision to turn Ayers Lane private and said the Selectboard should wait a few more years before deliberating. Under Vermont’s Title 9 statue, towns have until 2015 to find road records, such as those for Ayers Lane, which could show where, of even if, the road once connected to another road, Committee Chairman Jay Boeri said at the November meeting. That paper trail, though, hadn’t yet been discovered.

Ancient Roads Committee member Dean Greenberg said at the November meeting he believed the road may have once connected to the Brownsville Road, and if Ayers Lane becomes private, the town won’t be able to reclaim it for public access.

Previously, Guite attributed the lack of a paper trail to Ayers Lane to being a relatively new road created as recently as the 1960s by the Ayers family whose property was along Ayers Lane.

Although Stacey said other options were weighed, such as converting the road from Class 3 to Class 4, making it a gated road and giving it trail status, he said making it a private road was most fitting to fulfill Guite’s request for privacy.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@gmail.com.