Crime and Justice

Slate Ridge owner Daniel Banyai pays town of Pawlet nearly $53,000

Daniel Banyai speaks to a group at Slate Ridge in Pawlet. Facebook photo

Daniel Banyai, the owner of Slate Ridge, a paramilitary training facility in southwestern Vermont, has paid the town of Pawlet $52,965. 

His payment is the first in a series of actions Banyai must take after he lost a court battle with the town government for violating municipal bylaws and zoning rules. The case played out in the Environmental Division of the State Superior Court and the Vermont Supreme Court. 

The payment covers the amount Banyai owed to the town as of Dec. 16, 2020, plus interest, according to a statement from the town. 

Banyai has not yet taken other actions required by the court, including hiring a surveyor to assess structures on his land, such as gun ranges and buildings, that don’t have valid permits, according to Merrill Bent, the attorney for the town. 

Instead, it appears Banyai is continuing to build, she said. Banyai has previously posted photos and messages on social media describing his intentions to continue building on the site. 

Banyai needs to tear down any structures that aren’t permitted, according to the court order

After more than a year of waiting for Banyai to comply with the court order, town officials recently asked the court to hold Banyai in contempt. The town will push forward with that request, Bent said, along with fines for each day that Banyai fails to comply with the court order. 

His payment may exempt Banyai from another request from the town: to place his property in foreclosure.

“We're still asking the court to impose daily fines going forward, because that's typically what that's what the statute calls for,” Bent told VTDigger. “We're requesting additional fines be imposed and we're also seeking contempt.”

A new attorney for Banyai, Robert Kaplan of the Burlington-based firm Kaplan and Kaplan, was not immediately available for comment.  

Slate Ridge, which Banyai once called a “professional gunfighting center,” has been a subject of local and national media attention since 2020. Banyai has invited local far-right militia groups to train on his land, repeatedly harassed neighbors and failed to comply with local bylaws and court mandates. 

The town is scheduled to present its motion for contempt to the court on April 18.

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Emma Cotton

About Emma

Emma Cotton is a Report for America corps member who covers the environment, climate change, energy and agriculture. Previously, she covered Rutland and Bennington counties for VTDigger, wrote for the Addison Independent and served as assistant editor of Vermont Sports and VT Ski + Ride magazines. Emma studied marine science and journalism at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Email: [email protected]

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