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AV Land Trust Sues Peachland Family (Part 4)

There have been many board members who have quit the Anderson Valley Land Trust over the past few years. That might be normal for volunteer organizations in the Valley, I am only aware of the comings and goings of the Anderson Valley Land Trust. The ones that quit recently that come to mind are; my neighbor Brent on Peachland who moved away, Dean Titus, Jim Snyder, and Steve Snyder. The bummer for me is that these are all the board members that seemed to have the best grasp on reality. Maybe the AVLT threatening to sue, and then actually suing me had no impact on their departure, but it makes me wonder.

I met Steve Snyder a few years ago when he was the president of the Anderson Valley Land Trust. I was preparing to build a house on my family’s property on an abandoned foundation that had sat decaying on the property for close to 40 years. I was getting ready to cut down some redwoods to mill up for the house construction. I read through the easement my family had with the AVLT. There were no restrictions on the redwoods I planned to cut. The easement did not require me to notify the AVLT of the redwoods being cut. I decided to call them up anyway to try to start a good working relationship, since I only knew a few of the board members as friends of my family.

Since Steve was the President he came up and looked at the trees. He said everything looked fine to him and I soon had the trees decked and milled into some nice lumber. Steve seemed like a straight shooter, from my perspective. I continued to meet with Steve for the next few years as the AVLT got a bit more aggressive about supposed “issues” on our property. I met other board members and reconnected with board members that I had known all my life. Things progressed badly. From my perspective, it was like the AVLT had not read my easement, but had read some other easement, and was enforcing that “other” easement onto my property. It’s a long story, that ends with a lawsuit.

As my family’s relationship with the AVLT got more confusing, Steve was still willing to talk with me, or try to help me understand what the AVLT might be asking for. He by no means agreed with some of my positions, but he was willing to talk with me and express his concerns. Unfortunately, he was the last AVLT board member to be open to that before the entire AVLT board refused to talk with members of my family, and then sued us. That’s around the time that Steve left the AVLT board.

Steve has an easement on his Yorkville property with the AVLT. Steve’s easement is fairly similar to mine, but much more restrictive in parts as to what can take place on the property.

Here’s a quote from Steve’s easement; “The dumping, release, burning of non-vegetative wastes, permanent storage, or other disposal of wastes, refuse, debris, motorized vehicles or hazardous substances are prohibited.

Here’s a quote from my easement; “The dumping, release, burning, permanent storage or other disposal of wastes, refuse, debris, motorized vehicles or hazardous substances; is prohibited.

The AVLT started making statements about taking legal action against us when we had an RV on our property a few years ago. (around 2014, several years before they actually sued us.) The AVLT threatened to sue us if we didn’t get the RV off our property. At first, they said our RV was violating our easement by creating a 3rd residence on our property because it was used for camping at times by friends and family. So, we stopped camping in it. (Quick reminder; our easement allows a third residence.) The AVLT then changed their complaint and informed us it was in “permanent storage” and referenced the above wording that is oh so similar in Steve’s and my easement as prohibiting an RV from being “stored” on our property. I asked various AVLT board members how one particular vehicle could be in “permanent storage” on the property but none of the myriad of other vehicles on the property were an issue. Steve told me he didn’t know why. Other board members just wouldn’t explain what was going on, or even talk at all. And then Steve left the AVLT.

At that point my family drove the running, registered, insured, fully functional RV off the property. We stopped various improvement projects we had going on the property. The AVLT had threatened to sue us over the RV, as well as several other “things” on our property. We had been getting these threats of legal action for a few years, and it was incredibly taxing on my aging mother and aunt and uncle who owned the property. So, we stopped all activity on the property. We focused on family. I got married. My mom died. Family traveled for a memorial. And then a few months later we got sued. We had stopped adding any improvements or repairs to the property for the good part of a year prior. It might have been over a year, I’m not sure. Either way, it was quite a shock to get a lawsuit at our door when we felt we had “given in” and discontinued any improvements to our property.

The final insult is this; Steve Snyder keeps an RV on his property. AVLT board members have stated that he has it there now. Several years ago, when our RV was parked on our property, Steve told me that he kept his RV on his property. He told me the AVLT had no problem with it.

When you get sued, there is something called “discovery.” It means the AVLT had to provide documents relevant to their lawsuit against me. One of the documents they provided was an email from my neighbor on Peachland road, Brent. He was on the AVLT board a few years ago when the AVLT was telling us that our RV was a violation of our easement. Here’s a quote from an email from Brent to the other AVLT board members who eventually sued us; 

“I’m particularly irked by the AVLT stance on the RV. Do we really care where they park it? Would any of you hold that standard to one’s own property? We’ve agreed that Steve, who parks his RV at his house is not in conflict with his easement by creating another residence on his property.”

I’m assuming this is the point where a fly lands in your mouth, due to it hanging open.

Next, Part 5…

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