Vermont town removes unpermitted structures from defunct firearms training center while owner jailed

By Lisa Rathke, The Associated Press

An arrest warrant has been rescinded for the Vermont owner of a controversial firearms training center involved in a long-running legal dispute over unpermitted structures after the town says it has removed them while he remains jailed on other charges.

An environmental court judge ordered Daniel Banyai’s arrest in December, finding him in contempt of court for not bringing the property into compliance. Banyai was taken into custody last month and charged with aggravated assault on the constable who arrested him. He has pleaded not guilty.

The property in Pawlet, Vermont, known as Slate Ridge, included multiple buildings and two firing ranges on land about the size of 30 football fields (12 hectares). In 2019, the town first issued a violation notice to Banyai for building structures on the property without town approval. Slate Ridge neighbors complained about the gunfire and what they said were threats and intimidation by Banyai and his supporters. Many neighbors said they were afraid to talk publicly because they feared for their safety.

In March 2021, the Environmental Court ordered Banyai to end any firearms training at the center and remove unpermitted structures. The Vermont Supreme Court rejected Banyai’s appeal in January 2022.

A judge ordered him arrested in July of 2022 after issuing a scathing order months before that Banyai was in contempt of court for deliberately flouting a series of court orders issued since the legal case began. At the time, he faced jail and fines that could have exceeded $100,000 if he failed to comply by June 23, 2022.

The warrant expired after 60 days without an arrest.

The judge again ordered him arrested in December of last year after an inspection found he had not removed all the unpermitted structures.

According to a Thursday court filing signed by the judge, the town of Pawlet has finished the work to bring the property into compliance except for the removal of the deconstructed school. “Banyai’s agents” have agreed to complete that within 60 days of the filing, the document says.

Once that’s done, the town will provide an affidavit of the costs to complete the work with a motion for compensatory damages, the court filing says.

Banyai was still being held at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland early Friday afternoon, according to the state’s inmate locator. A phone message was left with his attorney seeking comment.

In response to Slate Ridge, Vermont last year enacted a law to ban paramilitary training centers in the state.

Lisa Rathke, The Associated Press

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today