• Mon. Mar 8th, 2021

A Bristling Standoff Rattles Gun-Friendly Vermont

ByBot

Feb 23, 2021

The state’s Natural Resources Board — which requires permits for any commercial development — refused to send its inspectors to Slate Ridge because of concerns that Mr. Banyai might be dangerous, and in 2018 and 2019 asked law enforcement to take over the case, said Evan Meenan, associate general counsel for the body.

The State Police refused, explaining that land use has never fallen within their responsibilities. Since then, the State Police have also investigated at least 10 complaints against Mr. Banyai without finding information to warrant any criminal charge, said Michael Schirling, the state’s commissioner of public safety. Fear, he said, was not a factor.

The police “are in fairly regular contact with folks there, as result of a number of investigations that occurred,” he said. “I haven’t heard anyone make that assessment.”

For his part, Mr. Banyai dismisses the suggestion that he would ever use force against the police, who he says are “already scared to death of me.” He says he has regular visits from the police, as well as the F.B.I. and A.T.F., who enforce federal weapons laws.

“I tell police all the time, if I have to come into handcuffs, call me, I can come down or I’ll just meet you at the gate and surrender myself,” he said.

In recent weeks, he has made the conflict into a political cause, declaring his candidacy for town selectman under the motto “Make Pawlet Great Again.”

Whatever the outcome of the dispute, it has already left its mark on Pawlet.

Last February, Slate Ridge’s Facebook page invited followers to attend the town’s Select Board meeting with weapons and trauma kits; the meeting was canceled because of the coronavirus, but some of the town employees were deeply shaken.

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