Threats, blockades prevent Little Compton land access, owner says

Council asks solicitor, police chief, others for details on Ag-Trust protected property

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 4/16/21

LITTLE COMPTON — A Little Compton resident told the Town Council last Thursday that her efforts to access property she has owned for seven years have been met by “constant threats” …

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Threats, blockades prevent Little Compton land access, owner says

Council asks solicitor, police chief, others for details on Ag-Trust protected property

Posted

LITTLE COMPTON — A Little Compton resident told the Town Council last Thursday that her efforts to access property she has owned for seven years have been met by “constant threats” and obstacles, and that her complaints have produced few results.

In the meantime, Karen Daubman said, others are continually trespassing and driving ATVs on her protected 12-acre piece of land east of South of Commons Road.

After discussion lasting for most of the meeting, council members voted unanimously in favor of Gary Mataronas’ motion to direct the town solicitor, town administrator and police chief to meet with the head of the Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust (Ag Trust). Their goal, in part, is to determine who is allowed to use a right of way that provides the only vehicle access to Plat 30, Lot 14-3.

The matter was brought to the council by Johanna McKenzie who said her family used to own the land and had donated its development rights to the Ag Trust, allowing the property to be preserved for agricultural use. 

“It is very important to me that something be done to protect the rights of the owner of the property,” she said, adding that she doesn’t believe the Ag Trust has done enough to make that happen.

Efforts by the present owner (Ms. Daubman) to get vehicles onto the land “have been blocked one way or another,” Ms. McKenzie said.

“Large truck loads of gravel have been dumped on the right-of-way,” effectively blockading it, she said, although that right-of-way is referenced in the property deed. 

The owner needs to do repairs to the barn and its deteriorating cupola, Ms. McKenzie said, and the Fire Department needs to be able to get trucks through.

“It is absurd that one man (he was not identified) is able to prevent that from happening (and) the town has done nothing.”

Ms. Daubman joined the remote meeting to say that, before buying the property, she checked with the Ag Trust to determine ways she could use the property that would conform to the restrictions.

She has a background in horticulture and landscape architecture, she said, and hoped to use the fields “to create habitats. I have not been able to do any of the improvements,” she said.

“It’s a real shame that I’m not able to access the property but the neighbor is.”

She said that whenever she sets foot on the boundary, “I am told my house is going to be burned down, I’m going to get killed, there are guns pulled on me and there are constant threats.” She later amended that to say she had seen weapons after Police Chief Scott Raynes said a check of police records showed that she had lodged no complaints of guns being pulled.

Ms. Daubman also said there is footage of ATVs racing through the property.

Police have responded when she has complained in the past, she said, but officers have told her they cannot do much without knowing more about the property lines and right-of-way status.

Bill Richmond, chairman of the Ag Trust, said that the Trust spoke with Ms. Daubman during a meeting on the previous evening and they have had correspondence in the past.

At issue, he said, is that the access route “is an easement only. We do not own the fee. Fundamentally this is a dispute of private property owners. He said the Trust has “committed to look further into who has what rights over that right-of-way and share that information with her.”

He said the Ag Trust does have access to the right-of-way which it has used occasionally to mow the property.

Town Solicitor Richard Humphrey said he has found the police chief to be “extremely responsive” to complaints.

He added, “The safety of all of the citizens is paramount to all of us. I can assure you that the police chief will be looking into it.”

Council member Anya Wallack said it seems that several issues are involved:

 — What are the rights and responsibilities of that right of way?

 — The Ag Trust’s lawyer and Mr. Humphrey should look into “who should do what and shouldn’t do what around that boundary;

 — And “there is a safety issue that has been raised,” something for the police and fire chiefs to look into.

To Ms. Daubman she added, “If anybody does anything like pull a gun on you or threaten you, you should absolutely call the police.”

Ms. McKenzie asked whether police can issue a no-trespass order for Ms. Daubman’s property.

That can happen, Mr. Humphrey said, but “the property line would have to be determined. We need to know who owns what.”

Those investigating the situation were asked to report their findings at the council’s second meeting in May.

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