A judge has declined to dismiss a civil complaint filed against a state representative by the town of Belmont, ruling that he was unpersuaded by Michael Sylvia’s argument that his compliance with a court order barring him from using his Farraville Road property without the needed local and state permits warranted the case being dropped.
Last August, the town filed a complaint in Belknap County Superior Court alleging that Sylvia was using his property in violation of the town’s zoning ordinance, state building code and Department of Environmental Services rules.
Last October, the court granted the town’s request for a preliminary injunction ordering that Sylvia must cease the illegal occupancy of a garage and recreational vehicle immediately, and/or apply for the required permits for its use within 30 days.
During a March 13, hearing, Sylvia, who chairs the Belknap County legislative delegation, asked the judge to drop the case, noting that he had immediately complied with the order, and rented an apartment in Belmont.
Attorney Laura Spector-Morgan of the Mitchell Municipal Group representing the town objected to the case being dismissed asserting that even if Sylvia was currently in compliance, the municipality wanted a final order from the court prohibiting Sylvia from reoccupying the property at 216 Farraville Road “in any manner unless and until he obtains the required permit for the recreational vehicle, or the conversion of the garage or the creation of some other living space, as well as for the septic system.”
In an April 16 ruling, Judge James D. O’Neill III concluded that the facts asserted in the town’s complaint constitute a basis for legal relief and that Sylvia, who is representing himself without benefit of a lawyer, made no argument as to how the injunction request fails as a matter of law.
The town has asked the court to issue a permanent restraining order and to award civil penalties of more than $125,000 as well as attorney’s fees and legal costs. O’Neill reserved ruling on those issues until a hearing on the merits is held and both sides have the chance to present evidence on the issues.
The parties are now scheduled to participate in alternative dispute resolution with a neutral mediator by May 1, to try and reach a settlement averting a trial. The case is now scheduled for a one-day bench trial to be heard by a judge, not a jury, on June 24.