After nearly three years of trying to deal with health hazards at a home on Gilman Road, the Hinesburg town government has obtained an injunction from the Vermont Superior Court, authorizing the town to get the place cleaned up.
As The Citizen reported last October, neighbors say the property at 477 Gilman Road is overrun with rats that have ventured into their homes.
The court order states that the town government “is permitted to take all reasonable steps necessary to”:
• Remove structures from the property.
• Remove abandoned vehicles from the property.
• Remove all garbage from the property.
• Remove vermin from the property.
The court order says the town must give the property owner, Sheridan Lane, 14 days’ notice of any actions it plans to take, and should seek reimbursement for costs related to the “investigation and mitigation of the public health risk.”
The town went to court after years of back-and-forth that went nowhere.
Over the years, rat holes have popped up on neighbors’ properties. Coyotes, crows and other animals that hunt the rats have become a nuisance to neighbors. The property is overgrown with trees, and the buildings are collapsing — including the outbuilding where Lane apparently lives.
The problem was officially raised in August 2015 by neighbor Lucas Charbonneau of 601 Gilman Road, who contacted then-Hinesburg Health Officer Joe Gannon.
The following January, the court noted that Katie Charbonneau — Lucas is her husband — reported the discovery of a live rat in her young daughter’s dresser drawer.
Gannon and then-Town Administrator Trevor Lashua met with Lane on March 8, 2016, to discuss the public hazards on the property.
Lane told them she had tried unsuccessfully to deal with overgrown vegetation and agreed to consult a professional exterminator to “abate the vermin nuisance,” the court complaint said.
A month later, in April 2016, the selectboard issued a health order to Lane, who agreed “to take steps to remedy the identifiable problems on her property.”
According to selectboard records, Lane had L&R Pest Elimination set vermin baits on her property until December 2016, but that didn’t end the problem.
In May 2017, when Kent Fraser became the health officer, he received more complaints from neighbors.
That November, Lane was called to a selectboard meeting, but she did not attend. When the selectboard issued yet another cleanup order, she did nothing.
“Fraser visually inspected the property on Dec. 30, 2017, and the condition of the property at that time was substantially similar to condition that existed on Oct. 25, 2017,” the court ruling stated.
Since getting the court order, dated Feb. 26, the town government has been figuring out how to clean up the property. A check for asbestos was planned for Tuesday, and the town is requesting bids from local contractors to do the cleanup work outlined in the court order, said Renae Marshall, town administrator. No definitive timeline has been set.
For town officials and neighbors, the situation has been frustrating. Lane has made promises she didn’t keep, and has been living in squalor. Four abandoned vehicles, collapsed structures and trash litter the property, as seen from the road and outlined by court documents.
People have reached out to help, but have been rebuffed.
In addition to cleaning up the property, town officials hope to place Lane in suitable housing, since the court ordered that any structures on her property be removed.
“Many calls have been made on behalf of the resident to find housing for her and her dogs,” said Joy Grossman, assistant town administrator. “Everyone needs a place to put their head. The ideal situation is for her and her dogs to be together,” but in decent housing.