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Resident claims false comments fueled dispute
SUMNER — "The town government of Sumner has been providing highly inaccurate and misleading information which has poured fuel on the fire of a local land dispute involving the status and ownership of a certain private road – Abbott Pond Road in northwest Sumner."
So says Ted Dawicki, a full-time resident and taxpayer of Sumner, who claims Sumner's Selectboard Chairwoman Mary Ann Haxton has made false statements regarding the status and ownership of Abbott Pond Road.
Dawicki submitted and read aloud a letter to the board of selectmen during its February 12 meeting, describing, in detail, the dispute between landowners that, according to Dawicki, began in 2011, or even earlier.
"Neighbors are at each other's throats to the point where alleged criminal actions have occurred," Dawicki said.
The criminal actions he refers to are criminal trespass, which he has been charged with by state police and physical assault by another landowner, he told the selectmen, during the meeting.
Not only that, Dawicki said, he has incurred substantial legal costs defending himself against "bogus" criminal charges.
The dispute is over who owns the road. According to Dawicki, during the fall of 2012, an abutter to Abbott Pond Road, Nicole Lutz, began blocking other landowners' and the public's access to the road, which has led to more serious issues.
The dispute has been fueled, in part, by Haxton's "erroneous statements," Dawicki claims. According to Dawicki, Haxton has claimed the road is neither a town way, public way, nor a public easement, without updated legal documentation to support it.
Along with his letter, Dawicki handed selectmen a copy of Lutz's deed, which he pointed out, "clearly states that Nicole does not own the road."
After visiting the courthouse, Dawicki said, he discovered that her deed states she owns only to the easterly side line of Abbott Pond Road. "Therefore, she has no legal authority to close it to anyone," Dawicki said.
According to Dawicki, "on at least three separate occasions ... Haxton – and another public servant who may have relied on Haxton's statements – have given out inaccurate information to local citizens and law enforcement authorities regarding private roads."
At an April 24, 2012, selectboard meeting, Haxton is recorded in official minutes as stating "whether or not Abbott Pond Road is a private road or, is now, or ever was a town way – is a civil matter," Dawicki said.
"Haxton has publicly expressed views that have misled local property owners as to the extent of their ownership of private roads, led to blocked access to private property, and encouraged law enforcement agencies to take actions which are not justifiable," Dawicki wrote in his letter.
Private or not?
Dawicki questioned whether the whole dispute really is just a private matter for property owners to address in court or whether the town has responsibility to research the issues.
In addition, he wondered if the road ever was a town way, whether it was discontinued or abandoned legally and if so, whether the town retains a public easement on the road.
In Dawicki's words, Haxton has failed to do her homework, most specifically, before speaking out on controversial matters.
"I don't believe that the statements in here [the letter] that talk about me, referring to state troopers and contacting them are accurate," Haxton told Dawicki, saying she would review previous selectboard minutes to avoid further argument.
"I don't believe I ever said to Nicole Lutz that she owns the property," she said.
Administrative Assistant Cynthia Norton said she would contact the Oxford County Commissioner's Office to further investigate the status of Abbott Pond Road and other "private" roads in Sumner.
"I believe, from what I know of deeds and transfers that, that road is probably owned [to the center line] by all of the abutters," Norton said.