Green group looks in Virginia farmer’s closets during ‘easement inspection’

Green group looks in Virginia farmer’s closets during ‘easement inspection’

Easements are documents property owners sign that compensate them for agreeing to withhold land from commercial development. In Boneta’s case, the PEC accused her in a previous lawsuit of violating the agreement in a number of ways, the main one of which was to operate apartments on the property.

An agreement to settle that suit required PEC to acknowledge the accusation was false and Boneta did not have apartments on the property, but it permitted PEC to “measure for the size of an apartment.” This inspection obviously went far beyond that.

Boneta claims in a lawsuit filed last month in Fauquier County Circuit Court the inspections are part of a pattern of harassment. …

[Boneta] told Marmet and Kane when they entered her property in June they could inspect only what the easement language allows. “It’s very clear,” she said. And if they “exceed what the language says, it is considered trespassing. In the past, you have demanded to inspect my closets and have photographed my personal private possessions, and this exceeds your authority.”

Marmet replied that, yes, he is an attorney—and a former judge, according to his bio on the PEC website—but he is not licensed to practice law in Virginia and is not familiar with the terms of the easement. If he was about to violate any of its terms, he told Boneta, “I ask that you give me notice.”

At which point, Mark Fitzgibbons, an attorney and neighbor who has supported legislation to protect traditional farming practices from intrusive zoning rules, stepped in. “The PEC has been placed on notice,” Fitzgibbons told Marmet. “The obligation is on you, not Martha Boneta, to know what the easement terms are.”

Fitzgibbons told The Daily Signal the inspections have gotten out of hand. “From what I’ve observed, these inspections are being conducted with an agenda greater than ensuring fidelity to the easement,” he said.

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