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Hanover prevails in legal fight with property owner

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2019 10:23:51 PM
Modified: 7/9/2019 10:23:45 PM

HANOVER — The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed Hanover’s right to remove debris from a town-owned trail through the Tanzi Natural Area, rebuffing resident David Vincelette’s claims to the contrary.

In a unanimous decision, the five justices also upheld Vincelette’s 2018 criminal contempt conviction for attempting to stop law enforcement and public works employees from clearing the trail.

The decision comes after years of legal wrangling over wooden pallets, machine parts and other items that spilled over from his property onto the public trail, which is accessible through a deeded right of way.

Between 2015 and 2018, the town obtained several court orders requiring Vincelette to clear the trail and allow town officials access. However, few of those were followed, according to Town Manager Julia Griffin.

“I am pleased to see this decision,” she said Tuesday. “The town really struggled with getting access to this property, getting it cleaned up and (doing it) in a way that complied with earlier superior court orders.”

Meanwhile, Vincelette characterized the ruling as one of many slights Hanover has pursued as retribution for his claims that the town is polluting waterways, including Mink Brook, with crushed asphalt it uses to repair roads.

His complaints prompted a state investigation, which declined last year to take action against the town but asked that it do more to protect the watershed.

Disputes regarding the town trail were heard several times in court before coming to a head in May 2016, when Hanover public works employees and members of the Grafton County Sheriff’s Office attempted to remove debris from the property.

Vincelette stood close to town employees yelling and swearing at them, officials contended in court documents. He also “made repeated physical contact” with a town employee, which prompted law enforcement to insert themselves between the two.

Vincelette was charged with criminal contempt and in January 2018 was convicted by a Superior Court judge who sentenced Vincelette to four months in jail. However, that sentence was suspended on the condition Vincelette remain on good behavior, and he only spent 8 days in jail.

He appealed the decision, arguing the state didn’t have sufficient evidence to prove he violated court orders, resulting in Tuesday’s ruling.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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